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Demo company fined $101K in Civic Center death

By Audra Gamble/The Holland Sentinel • Dec 29, 2017 at 11:00 AM

HOLLAND — X-Treme Demolition Inc., a Grand Rapids-based company, has been fined $101,000 after a worker was killed Aug. 1 during demolition of Holland’s Civic Center.

Fines were issued Nov. 28 from the Michigan Occupational Safety and Health Administration, which had been investigating since the day after the incident.

X-Treme was hired by GO Construction, which is the general contractor hired by the City of Holland for the $14.15 million Civic Center renovation. The company could not be reached Dec. 28 for comment.

A floor collapse killed Ruben Gomez-Vazques, 38, and injured Rafael Hernandez-Alvarez, 41.

Gomez-Vazques and Hernandez-Alvarez were using a sledgehammer and jackhammer to knock down stairs that had already been pre-cut to release the rebar from the larger sections of concrete. The two men were on the second floor when it collapsed from underneath them.

During the fall, Gomez-Vazques was trapped among the falling slabs of concrete, according to the police report regarding the incident, obtained by The Sentinel through a Freedom of Information Act request.

Hernandez-Alvarez told police at the scene that both he and Gomez-Vazques were wearing harnesses and helmets, and the harnesses were hooked into a safety retractor.

Jeannie Vogel, spokesperson for the Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs, which oversees OSHA, said there were two inspections: one covered the fatality and a companion inspection covered items unrelated to the fatality. Violations by X-Treme Demolition were found in both.

Regarding the fatality, the demolition company has been fined $98,000, the largest being a $70,000 fine for repeated violations of daily inspections not detecting hazards.

The other violations were:

— $7,000 for deficiencies in the company’s accident-prevention program,

— $7,000 for fall protection not being used in compliance with Construction Safety Standard rules during demolition,

— $7,000 for the floor area not being supported or shored during manual demolition,

— $7,000 for no planking or platform provided while demolishing a floor arch.

Citations issued for violations outside of the fatality were: $1,500 for no safety fasteners at pneumatic tool connections, and $1,500 for no pressure-reducing safety device at the compressor.

Holland Department of Public Safety evidence technician Casey Howe walked through the Civic Center with a GO Construction representative after the fatal accident.

“I went through the Civic Center with one of GDK’s structural engineers,” Howe wrote in the police report. “One item that he pointed out to me was that there was a cut in the concrete where Ruben and Rafael were working. This was a cut that went from east to west along a beam. This cut would have been a main support area for the concrete that they were standing on while working. If this cut was made, there was less support that they were standing on, and it was unknown if Rafael and Ruben knew that this cut had already been made prior to them getting up there and using power tools on the concrete.”

Along with noting the structural deficiencies of where the two men had been working, Howe wrote that Ottawa County Medical Examiner Bob Bladek ruled Gomez-Vazques’ death as “accidental by way of blunt-force trauma to the pelvic region.”

“Ruben had sustained a very deep laceration to the right side of his groin,” Howe wrote. “It appeared as though this laceration was due to severe amount of pressure from his harness. His harness was hooked up to a pulley-type system that was supposed to lock if the person sustained some type of free fall or quick movement.

“It was unknown why this severe laceration sustained just by his body weight falling down,” Howe continued, “and I thought that it was possible that his body could have been pinched in between two pieces of large concrete, causing a significant amount of weight to be pressed down while the harness was trying to hold him up.”

Gomez-Vazques was still breathing when first responders arrived at the Civic Center, but died before he could be extricated from underneath the concrete slabs.

According to the U.S. Department of Labor, X-Treme Demolition Inc. has had 20 OSHA violations since 2013. Geenen DeKock Properties, which owns GO Construction and hired the company, could not be reached for comment Dec. 28.

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