Fatal worker injury in my hometown

Margarito Guardado Resinos, 34, and Nelson Pineda were working together to erect a pre-engineered steel building frame at a construction site in San Marcos, TX. The two were employed by Jetka Steel Erectors of Katy, TX, a firm hired by Bailey Elliot Construction of Austin to erect a new building for Thermon Manufacturing at the central Texas location. (I moved to San Marcos, TX last fall and the Thermon facility is on the service road for I-35, only a few miles from my home.) Just before noon on July 27, 2011 the metal structure collapsed, killing Mr. Resinos and injurying Mr. Pineda.

Less than 90 days earlier, OSHA cited the men’s employer for four serious violations of safety standards and proposed a $12,000 penalty. The violations included failing to provide adequate fall protection with the inspector noting:

“Each employee engaged in a steel erection activity who was on a walking/working surface with an unprotected side or edge more than 15 feet (4.6 m) above a lower level was not protected from fall hazards by guardrail systems, safety net systems, personal fall arrest systems, positioning device systems or fall restraints systems.”

The inspector also indicated that Jetka’s employees had not received appropriate training with respect to fall hazards and methods to prevent injuries associated with them.

OSHA’s on-line data system reports that Jetka reached an informal settlement with the agency just a few weeks before this fatal incident. OSHA agreed to reduce the $12,000 penalty to $6,100, and reclassify two of the serious violations to “other-than-serious.” The OSHA on-line data fails to tell us, however, what Jetka Steel Erectors committed to do for their end of the bargain. For example, did the employer simply agree to fix the deficiencies found during the OSHA inspection? or did the firm agree to examine and enhance its overall safety program? A comprehensive assessment would address not only the hazards identified in December 2010 inspection, but all relevant hazards related to their steel erection business. Ideally, the assessment would have involved front-line workers and managers to identify existing and potential hazards, and implement steps to control or eliminate them through equipment and supply improvements, job redesign, training and the like.

I’ve asked OSHA’s Dallas office on July 30 for a copy of the agency’s settlement agreement with Jetka. Hopefully soon I’ll be able to report back to you on what the employer and OSHA put in place (or not) which might have prevented the death of 34 year old Margarito Guardado Resinos.

[Update: I was just about to publish this post when I received an email from the Labor Department’s Office of Public Affairs in Dallas instructing me to send a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request to OSHA’s office in Corpus Christi, Texas. The message indicated that my request could be sent by FAX or snail mail (not email) and noted “Let me emphasize that the request must be signed to be valid.” I’m away from my office this week; I’m off to find a printer and fax machine so I can send in the signed FOIA request.]

Comments

  1. #1 unsafetv
    August 3, 2011

    This is tragic. I’m not sure in this particular instance that the blame belongs solely on Jetka – the idea of the building collapsing in the middle of construction brings to mind faulty engineering/construction plans. The blame may even be distributable among the foundation company, the foundation engineers, the construction engineers or the construction company. Its tragic that someone lost their life in this incident – construction can be so dangerous when not done right.

  2. #2 jeff
    August 3, 2011

    “I’m not sure in this particular instance that the blame belongs solely on Jetka – the idea of the building collapsing in the middle of construction brings to mind faulty engineering/construction plans.”

    pre-engineered metal buildings are notoriously unstable and rely on their being completed to attain their structural stability. successful erection of them has to follow a very precise sequence (and that takes more time than just throwing it together – which is where training and management directives come into play) in order to be safe. it’s pretty absurd to expect that the “plans” were faulty.
    get back to worrying about homeowners finishing concrete steps in tank tops….

  3. #3 unsafetv
    August 3, 2011

    I should have been more clear when I said “brings to mind faulty engineering/construction plans.”
    I meant ‘order of work/ construction processes and procedures’ rather than simply the construction drawings. That could be the responsibility of the the lead contractor or of Jetka, depending on how the work broke down in the contracts.

    On top of that, with the severe drought conditions in Texas, foundation plans drawn up 6 month ago may not be possible to properly implement in the current conditions. Where I am, we can’t even get real estate ‘open house’ signs to be structurally sound, so perhaps there is some blame there as well. I don’t know if Jetka was responsible for foundation work.
    Anyway, I just wanted to point out that since we know so little about the incident, its impossible to know what is the reason for the collapse. On a multi-contractor jobsite like the one described (Bailey/Jetka/ and probably others), it is hard to imagine that Jetka did every aspect of every task that led to this death. Maybe they did, but from what I know reading the linked articles, its impossible to tell.

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