New Jersey Company “Surprised” To Be Fined Following Worker Death At New 49ers Stadium

A New Jersey-based company said it was “surprised” about receiving three citations for serious violations from a state worker safety agency in the June 11 death of a construction worker at the San Francisco 49ers’ planned new stadium in Santa Clara.

The California Division of Occupational Safety and Health on Tuesday ordered Schindler Elevator to pay $54,000 in penalties for safety violations that led Donald White to be killed at the Levi’s Stadium site, Cal/OSHA spokesman Greg Siggins said.

Each of the three citations carries a penalty of $18,000 and is regarded as “serious,” which under state laws is defined as causing a substantial probability of death or serious physical harm at the workplace, Siggins said.

White, 63, a mechanic for subcontractor Schindler, died at the stadium site when a counterweight of a freight elevator hit him as he stood beneath it while installing equipment in the counterweight runway, according to Cal/OSHA.

On Oct. 22, Cal/OSHA, which at first decided not to cite Schindler, announced it had rescinded its decision and would take another look at what led to White’s death.

Schindler, of Morristown, N.J., in a written statement today from company spokesman Josh Laster, claimed company officials “were surprised to learn that Cal/OSHA has rescinded a ‘notice of no violation’ earlier issued following the agency’s detailed and thorough investigation of the facts and circumstances surrounding this incident.”

“It is important to note that no additional facts were solicited by Cal/OSHA from Schindler prior to its reversal of findings,” company officials said.

“We believe that Cal/OSHA’s initial notice of no violation was an appropriate conclusion,” they said. “Schindler intends to vigorously contest the citations issued.”

“As a leading manufacturer of elevators and escalators since 1874, Schindler is committed to the safety of its equipment, its workers and the riding public,” the officials said.

Cal/OSHA has given Schindler until Dec. 20, 10 days after the citations were given out, to abate each violation and the firm has 15 days to either appeal the citations or pay the penalties, Siggins said.

If the violations described in the citations were not corrected in the 10 days, the penalties would double, according to Cal/OSHA.

In the first citation, Cal/OSHA determined that the company failed to implement a required Injury and Illness Prevention Program at the Schindler site prior to the accident.

Specifically, Schindler failed “to correct the hazard of mounting electrical equipment within the runway such that employees may be required to be in the zone of danger during installation and maintenance of the equipment.”

The company also failed to prevent the hazards of “allowing the activation of the elevator while any employee is situated within the zone of danger created by the movement of the elevator platform or counterweight,” according to Cal/OSHA.

Schindler also did not develop effective procedures to ensure employers are out of danger from the moving parts of an elevator before it is activated, Cal/OSHA said.

The second citation faulted Schindler for failing to enclose the counterweights installed in two freight elevators at the Levi’s site, and the result was that “an employee was fatally injured when he was struck by the counterweight” of one of the elevators “while installing equipment within the counterweight runway,” according to the agency.

Cal/OSHA claimed in the third citation that the company failed to guard the counterweights in the freight elevators and that had “exposed employees working within (one) elevator hoistway and pit to the hazardous reciprocating and running actions of the counterweight.”

The $1.3 billion Levi’s stadium, located at 4900 Centennial Blvd. at Tasman Drive in Santa Clara, is slated to open on Aug. 2 with a soccer match between the San Jose Earthquakes and the Seattle Sounders FC.

The stadium is set to become the new home field for the 49ers, which is leaving San Francisco’s Candlestick Park at the end of the current season.

Jeff Burbank, Bay City News

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