OSHA: Ignored safety standards caused floor collapse that killed contractor

OSHA: Ignored safety standards caused floor collapse that killed contractor

KILN, MS (WLOX) - A design flaw and ignored safety standards led to the construction accident that killed 54-year-old Gary Berthelot on Sept. 8, 2015. That's according to findings from an investigation into the tragic incident by the U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

According to the OSHA report, the original floor plans for the new Jourdan River Steamer restaurant, which was under construction in the Kiln, called for wood floors. The report says contractors working on the job site used concrete without new engineering plans.

OSHA said the designs that called for a wood floor could not support the concrete floor, and that's what led to the collapse that killed Berthelot, who was also the project's general contractor with 30 years of construction experience.

Berthelot and three other workers employed by Great Southern Building Systems, LLC were placing additional supports under the freshly poured concrete when the form collapsed.

Three workers were able to safely escape the collapse, but Berthelot was trapped beneath the fallen concrete and rubble. Emergency officials had to pull the body of the father of four from the debris.

As a result of its investigation, OSHA cited Great Southern Building Systems, LLC for one willful and two serious safety violations on March 2. The serious citations were for not installing formwork to support the concrete floor as it was poured and not having engineering plans for the concrete floor onsite.

The citations could cost Great Southern Building Systems, LLC more than $79,000.

"Great Southern Building Systems, LLC failed in its responsibility to protect its employees, despite being warned that the floor was unstable," said Eugene Stewart, director of OSHA's Jackson Area Office. "This tragedy could have been prevented had the employer obtained new engineering plans and followed the requirements."

OSHA also cited Berthelot Design Systems for safety violations related to the collapse, but the agency waived the citations and penalties against the company because Berthelot was its only employee.

Great Southern Building Systems, LLC has 15 business days from the day it received the citation to pay the fine, request a conference with OSHA's area director or contest the findings before the Occupational Safety and Health review Commission.

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