Thursday, April 27, 2017

Hultgren Construction faces just under $100,000 in fines. Command Center, Inc. faces $114,000 in fines in Copper Lounge Deadly Collapse in downtown Sioux Falls, SD

Updated: Mon 7:11 PM, Apr 24, 2017 

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KSFY) - A construction company and a staffing agency have been fined roughly $100,000 each for the conditions of a building leading up to its collapse in downtown Sioux Falls last December.

Occupational Safety and Health Administration spokesman Scott Allen told KSFY News that the fines stem from the conditions inside the Copper Lounge before it collapsed on December 2, 2016, killing construction worker Ethan McMahon. The collapse also trapped Emily Fodness, who was living in an apartment on the second floor.

Hultgren Construction faces just under $100,000 in fines. Command Center, Inc. faces $114,000 in fines. Command Center is a staffing agency that had several employees working inside the Copper Lounge building during construction and demolition phases.

Allen said this investigation is based on video and photo evidence that include items that date back to six months ago from Friday, the day the reports were released.

The safety citations for both companies range from a lack of proper safety training and gear like helmets, eye protection and respirators to hazardous use of scaffolding and ladders.

Hultgren Construction also faces additional citations for exposing employees to materials that may have contained asbestos, storing bricks and other debris in a matter that blocked passageways and failing to ensure the debris stored on the floor did not exceed the floor's weight capacity.

While this report did not specifically address the cause of the collapse, the citation for the floor capacity did say that it put the floor at risk of collapse.

OSHA says Hultgren Construction is still being investigated for the building collapse itself and the death of employee Ethan McMahon. Those full results will be released by June 2nd.

In a statement Monday, Aaron Hultgren said "Hultgren Construction, LLC has received a Citation from the Occupational Safety and
Health Administration. We understand and appreciate the important work OSHA undertakes to help ensure safe and healthy working conditions for American workers. As part of this on-going process, we are currently reviewing the documents and will be in contact with OSHA with our response. OSHA, as well as all interested parties, continue to receive our full cooperation."

Brendan Simaytis is the corporate attorney for Command Center. He also issued a statement Monday.

"At Command Center, we take the safety of our workers and others very seriously. We disagree with OHSA’s findings regarding their inspection as it concerns Command Center, and we intend to appeal all issued citations and the associated penalties. The citations do not reflect the manner in which Command Center operates and the importance we place on safety as a company.

We are very sympathetic to the fact that an employee of another company died as the result of the building collapse. Our condolences and sympathies go out to the deceased Hultgren Construction employee’s family. Command Center and its employees had absolutely nothing to do with the ultimate reason the building collapsed. There were no Command Center workers on site at the time of this tragic incident. As a staffing agency, our limited role in this project was to provide workers to work under the direction and supervision of Hultgren Construction. None of the issued citations ascribe any blame to Command Center related to the actual building collapse. We believe the citations and penalties are grossly disproportionate to any activities our employees were involved in at the work site prior to the collapse.

We will thoroughly investigate the bases for OSHA’s findings. In the interim, we will of course comply with all requirements of the issued citations, and we will continue to work, as we always do, on further enhancing our safety programs and practices."

While Hultgren Construction had nearly double the violations of Command Center, the national staffing agency received much larger fines for each citation. OSHA says those fines are based on the total size of the company.