49ers Stadium Construction Briefly Suspended After Death Of Worker

The general contractor of San Francisco 49ers’ new stadium in Santa Clara today suspended construction until Thursday after a worker was killed in an elevator accident at the site, a spokesman said.

Building on the project will resume at 6:45 a.m. after “we talk to our 1,200 employees about the tragic day,” said Robert Rayborn, project co-director with general contractor Turner-Devcon.

Rayborn said that based on what people said in a flood of calls and emails about the victim, Donald White, “he was such a committed person that he would want us to go on, so we decided on Thursday as a good day.”

The contractor made the decision after the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health, which is investigating the accident, said this afternoon it was up to them when to resume construction, Rayborn said.

The accident was reported at 6:53 a.m. at the site of what will be Levi’s Stadium, the $1.3 billion venue at Centennial Boulevard and Tasman Drive slated to open in 2014.

Rayborn said that White was an employee of subcontractor Schindler Elevator Corp. and a 43-year veteran in the elevator trades with a wife and four sons.

White, 63, was apparently standing on a ladder beneath the elevator’s counterweight when the counterweight “came down and struck him,” said Peter Melton, a spokesman for Cal/OSHA.

Melton said it is not yet clear what went wrong.

Greg Siggins, a spokesman for Cal/OSHA, said the agency would determine what if any state safety code violations occurred during the accident and complete a report within six months, as state law requires.

Cal/OSHA is reviewing information provided by the West Coast regional operating manager for Schindler, which as White’s employer could be cited and fined if code violations are found, Siggins said.

Companies may be fined $7,000 for general and regulatory violations, $25,000 for a serious violation and from $5,000 to $70,000 for a willful violation of occupational safety codes, Siggins said.

The investigation will look into whether Schindler’s employees were properly trained to operate equipment and wore proper gear while working, Siggins said.

Siggins said he did not know whether White was wearing a helmet or if the man was killed at a temporary or stadium elevator.

Rayborn said the accident occurred in one of 14 elevator shafts at the stadium site.

After the accident, work on the stadium was stopped and workers were sent home.

Project co-director Jonathan Harvey said safety is the company’s primary concern.

“We will never put a worker in a hazardous situation,” he said.

A statement released by Turner-Devcon this morning read, “We are deeply saddened to confirm that a worker died this morning while working on the stadium construction site. Our thoughts and prayers go out to his family during this very difficult time.”

The statement said that in addition to Cal/OSHA, the Santa Clara police and fire departments are looking into the accident, and that Turner-Devcon will also conduct its own investigation.

Grief counselors will be made available to friends and coworkers of the victim in the coming days and weeks, according to the company.

The 49ers released a statement today offering condolences to White’s family, friends and colleagues.

“The 49ers family has lost a teammate today,” team officials said.

Santa Clara city spokesman Dan Beerman said, “We have 1,000 employees a day working there and we have very few accidents, especially serious ones. We can’t describe our sadness. This is such a tragedy.”

He said word of the death has sent a shock wave through the city.

“Everybody’s walking around here in a daze,” Beerman said.

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