Building collapse leads to fines

OSHA says two contractors shirked safety codes in a fatal September accident.
Wednesday, February 11, 2004 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 12:56 a.m. CDT, Friday, June 27, 2008

Two local contractors that were constructing a steel frame building when it collapsed in September have been cited for serious violations of federal worker-safety codes. The collapse killed one worker and injured two others.

Prost Builders and J.D. Builders failed to maintain the structural stability of the building — the future Columbia Transload Terminal at 6501 Brown Station Road — according to a report issued by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

Chris Tristan, a worker for J.D. Builders, died in October after the steel framework he was working on collapsed. Trevor Kirby of Columbia and Corey Sieckman of Booneville were injured in the accident.

Prost Builders, the lead contractor on the project, was cited for two serious violations, including failing to provide written notification to J.D. Builders that the concrete in the buildings footings, piers and walls could support the steel frame. The company was fined $7,000, according to the report.

J.D. Builders was cited for four violations, all regarded as “serious” by OSHA, including proceeding with the erection of the steel frame without notification that the foundation could support it. The company, which was fined $6,000, was also cited for employing workers who had not been properly trained.

At the time of the Sept. 16 accident, Prost had not secured the proper building permit from the city. Prost was required by city ordinance to have footing and foundation work inspected and approved before beginning the steel frame. That inspection had yet to be performed.

Rich Sternadori, Columbia’s chief building inspector, said that at the time of the accident the city was awaiting more information from the contractors before issuing the permit. Meanwhile, he said, there was no way for the city to know that the unpermitted work was progressing.

“We have no way to confirm that,” Sternadori said. “We don’t have someone whose job it is to catch people who have exceeded the scope of their building permit.”

Prost eventually received the required permit, after paying nearly $6,000, double the usual permitting fee.

Sternadori said he had yet to see the OSHA report and could not comment on its findings.

“Our office is not charged with enforcement of the OSHA act, and I wouldn’t want to try and interpret any meaning out of their report,” Sternadori said.

A spokesman for J.D. Builders, who declined to be identified by name, said the company would contest OSHA’s findings.

A person who answered the phone at Prost Builders said the company would have no comment.

Manuel Olmedo, area director of OSHA’s Kansas City-area office, declined to discuss details of the agency’s investigation until the case is closed. Olmedo said contractors who are cited for safety code violations have two options.

“When all activity is completed, a company has 15 working days to contest (a citation) by sending a letter saying they want to contest it,” Olmedo said. “The case is given to Department of Labor lawyers, and either a settlement is negotiated or it goes to court.”

Construction of the terminal, which will serve as a warehouse and transfer station for the city-owned COLT Railroad, is nearly finished, Sternadori said.

“There were still some unfinished offices and those kinds of spaces,” he said. “The last information I had, those were not completed.”

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