UPDATE: Sept. 15, 2020: The two workers who died at the Amazon fulfillment center construction site in Suffolk, Virginia, earlier this month have been identified as employees of Louisiana-based Eastern Constructors, a sub-subcontractor to general contractor The Conlan Co., according to The Virginian-Pilot. Construction was stalled for approximately two weeks but restarted Sept. 11.
Salvador Jovel Serrano and Jose Roberto Cuevas-Macias were killed when a portion of the structure collapsed. The two men had been in lifts fastening large steel columns when the accident occurred, The Virginian-Pilot reported.
Suffolk Police and officials with Virginia’s Occupational Safety and Health program are continuing to investigate the accident.
Other employees for Eastern, a steel erection contractor, have died or been injured in workplace incidents in the past several years. In July 2016, according to OSHA records, a worker died after falling 30 feet while moving a fall protection beam anchor at a project in Chantilly, Virginia. A settlement reduced the fine from $12,250 to $9,000.
Then, in November 2017, another Eastern employee was killed while installing bar joists during steel erection for a distribution center project in Charlotte, North Carolina. A bar joist collapsed, killing the one employee and injuring another. For this incident, OSHA cited Eastern for one "other" and four serious violations and fined the company a total of $20,100. Those violations are being contested.
- During the last five years, OSHA has initiated 19 investigations into The Conlan Co., the general contractor building a $200 million Amazon fulfillment center in Suffolk, Virginia, where two workers were killed in a jobsite accident last weekend. That does not include the investigation into the two workers' deaths, which will likely be handled by Virginia Occupational Safety and Health under the authority of its federal OSHA-approved state plan.
- Of the 19 cases, OSHA cited and fined Conlan twice for violations on jobsites in Georgia. In March 2020 the agency proposed a fine of $8,675 for a serious violation of the training requirements for cranes and derricks but, under an informal settlement agreement the next month, reduced that amount to $5,205. According to OSHA records, the address of that project matches the address of an Amazon robotics fulfillment center in Stone Mountain.
- The second OSHA investigation that earned Conlan a citation but no fine took place in June 2018 and was related to toxic and hazardous substances and the requirement that they be labeled properly. The remainder of the cases resulted in no inspection or no other action on the part of OSHA.
Construction Dive reached out to Conlan for comments on its previous OSHA inspections and the latest case in Suffolk but did not receive a response by press time.
In addition, there have been no details released yet about the nature of the accident at the Virginia jobsite. When complete, the fulfillment center will have a footprint of 822,833 square feet, and at 95 feet high and four-and-a-half stories tall, will have 3.8 million square feet of space overall, according to the Suffolk News Herald.
Earlier this year, an employee of Columbus Steel Erectors was killed on another Amazon project, the $1.5 billion Amazon Air hub at Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport (CVG) in Hebron, Kentucky. Ironworker Loren Shoemake died from blunt force trauma, according to the Boone County, Kentucky, coroner.
At the end of July, OSHA cited Columbus Steel in the accident and proposed fines of $88,900. The largest fine of $70,000 was for a willful violation of OSHA Standard 1904.40(a), which requires employers to hand over copies of records within four business days when requested by an authorized government representative.
The other three violations were all categorized as "serious" and carried proposed penalties of $6,300 each. OSHA said Columbus Steel did not adhere to:
- Standard 1926.753(d)1) — Routes for suspended loads shall be preplanned to ensure that no employee is required to work directly below a suspended load unless employees are engaged in the initial connection of the steel or hooking and unhooking load.
- Standard 1926.1413(a)(1) — A competent person must begin a visual inspection prior to each shift the equipment is used, which must be completed before or during that shift.
- Standard 1926.1413(b)(1) — Each month an inspection must be conducted in accordance with paragraph (a) (shift inspection) of this section, which includes the observation of wire ropes (running and standing) that are likely to be in use during the shift for apparent deficiencies.