When followed, safety standards save lives and painful injuries. In the construction industry, ignoring them can lead to disaster, as it did for 54-year-old Gary Berthelot as he helped rebuild a Mississippi restaurant damaged by Hurricane Isaac.
On Sept. 8, 2015, as workers poured concrete above, Berthelot and three workers employed by Great Southern Building Systems were placing additional supports beneath the concrete form when it collapsed. Falling concrete and other debris struck and trapped the father of four, who had 30 years of construction experience and was the project’s general contractor. The other workers managed to escape the collapse.
Why it happened
An investigation by OSHA found the project’s original flooring plans called for a wood floor, but the contractors did not get new engineering plans for a concrete floor and used designs that could not support the weight of the concrete.
OSHA cited Berthelot Design Systems and subcontractor, Great Southern Building Systems LLC, doing business as Bayou Steel Fabricators Inc., for safety violations related to the collapse. The agency issued citations to Great Southern Building Systems, LLC on March 2, 2016 for one willful and two serious safety violations. The agency waived the citations and penalties against Berthelot, as he was the company’s only employee.
The floor was unstable
“Great Southern Building Systems, LLC failed in its responsibility to protect its employees, despite being warned that the floor was unstable,” said Eugene Stewart, director of OSHA’s Jackson Area Office. “This tragedy could have been prevented had the employer obtained new engineering plans and followed the requirements.”
Great Southern Building Systems, LLC received serious citations for not installing formwork to support the concrete floor as it was poured and not having engineering plans for the concrete floor onsite.
Great Southern Building Systems is based in Based in Pearl River Louisiana, Proposed penalties total $79,800.