State Cites Construction Firms

September 26, 2003
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GRAND RAPIDS — The state has charged Hunt Construction, Erhardt Construction, Erhardt Hunt, Pitsch Companies and Allied Electric with violating safety standards during the June demolition of the Welsh Auditorium that led to the death of an Erhardt employee.

Twenty-year-old Adam Petruska was killed at the Welsh worksite after a large concrete wall broke free and buried him under a mass of debris. The incident occurred on June 18 and was investigated by the Construction Safety Division of the Michigan Occupational Safety and Health department.

Bureau of Safety Regulation Director Doug Kalinowski accused the companies of not having a coordinated plan in place to protect workers at the demolition site.

“Employers must exert all due diligence to identify hazards, whatever the cause, and take all necessary measures to prevent these types of accidents to their workers,” he said.

The razing of Welsh Auditorium is part of the $212 million convention center project.

In all, the Michigan Department of Consumer and Industry Services cited four firms with 11 serious safety violations and also charged the project’s construction management team of Erhardt Hunt with committing an additional four violations. The 15 violations carry a total of $69,500 in proposed fines.

CIS leveled penalties of $20,000 each to Erhardt Hunt, Erhardt Construction and Hunt Construction for a total of $60,000. The agency has also proposed fines of $5,000 and $4,500 to Pitsch and Allied, respectively. Pitsch and Allied were subcontractors.

“Demolition work is extremely hazardous and there are clear-cut MIOSHA safeguards to protect these workers. It is very apparent from our investigation that there was a tragic lack of communication between Erhardt Hunt Joint Venture and the other employees, which resulted in the placement of workers in a zone of danger,” said CIS Director David Hollister.

The wall that collapsed and crushed Petruska was a temporary wall built to protect the Welsh lobby, which is being integrated into the new convention center ballroom, from being damaged by the demolition of the auditorium. Part of the state’s claim against the companies is that workers only directly involved in the demolition are allowed on the site and Petruska wasn’t one of those.

The companies have 15 days to appeal the charges and all plan to do that.    

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