Two Wisconsin companies failed to adequately brace formwork while pouring walls, leading to the collapse of a wet concrete wall that killed a worker at a building site in 2010, according to an OSHA investigation.

The agency has issued one safety citation each to Lewis Construction Inc. and Cedar Falls Building Systems Inc. for that violation. Lewis Construction also received nine safety citations for serious violations. The investigation followed the Dec. 20th incident in Chippewa Falls that claimed the life of a Lewis Construction employee and sent three of his co-workers to a hospital.

Lewis Construction is a concrete contractor with more than 40 employees. Cedar Falls Building Systems was the general contractor at the site.

"Lewis Construction and Cedar Falls Building Systems willfully ignored known construction safety procedures by failing to ensure adequate bracing to support recently formed concrete walls," said Mark Hysell, OSHA area director in Eau Claire. "Employers are responsible for knowing what hazards exist in their workplaces and taking all precautions to ensure workers are not exposed to risks that could result in injury or death."

At the time of the wall collapse, five Lewis Construction employees were working from elevated walkways attached to the framework on both sides of the concrete form. The cast-in-place concrete wall that collapsed was 10 feet high, 28 feet long and 10 inches wide. The willful violation for which both Lewis Construction and Cedar Falls Building Systems have been cited is not adequately bracing formwork to be capable of supporting all vertical and lateral loads.

The additional citations to Lewis Construction involve allegedly failing to perform formwork inspections prior to, during and after concrete placement; removing formwork prior to ensuring adequate strength of the poured concrete; exposing workers to fall hazards of approximately 10 feet without fall protection; not fully planking scaffolding platforms; not cleating the end of scaffolding planks or ensuring they were extended a minimum of 6 inches beyond supports; using damaged scaffolding planks; and a lack of adequate access and egress to and from scaffolding platforms. The company also was cited for not protecting bulk LP tanks from vehicular traffic.

For these latest citations, Lewis Construction faces $130,000 and Cedar Falls Building Systems $30,800 in proposed penalties. Lewis Construction was inspected by OSHA once in the last five years prior to this inspection, resulting in a serious citation. Cedar Falls Building Systems was inspected by OSHA four times in the last five years prior to this inspection, resulting in four serious citations. OSHA has placed Lewis Construction Inc. in its Severe Violator Enforcement Program, which mandates targeted follow-up inspections to ensure compliance with the law. Initiated in the spring of 2010, the program focuses on recalcitrant employers that endanger workers by committing willful, repeat or failure-to-abate violations. Lewis Construction was placed in the program at this time because the company's willful violation involved a fatality.