Contractors renovating a city-owned parking garage in Cambridge failed to ensure that walls and floors didn’t collapse during demolition work and let employees access areas that had been structurally compromised, according to federal workplace safety regulators who inspected the job site after one worker was killed and a second was severely injured there in March.
Inspectors from the US Occupational Safety and Health Administration found that supports securing stairwell floors were removed from the First Street Garage, while the floors themselves were left in place, and concrete was chipped from stairwell platforms, weakening the structure and making it vulnerable to collapse. The agency issued safety citations and wants the general contractor, STRUCTURALof Columbia, Md., to pay $68,265 in fines. OSHA is also seeking to impose penalties of $20,480 against the subcontractor, LBR Property Services LLC of South Windsor, Conn., records show.
Christopher Stuck, 56, a LBR Property Services employee from South Windsor, was killed when the stairwell collapsed on the morning of March 3. The Office of the Chief Medical Examiner determined his death was an accident and no charges have been filed, according to records released Thursday by the Middlesex district attorney’s office.
Brent Robert, the principal of LBR Property Services who was working with Stuck, sustained severe injuries and can no longer work, according to a wrongful death lawsuit filed last month in Middlesex Superior Court. The lawsuit, which was also filed on behalf of Stuck’s estate, alleges that the general contractor and others overseeing the renovation directed the men to work in an unsafe area where earlier construction had “impacted the stability” of the stairway that collapsed.
The two companies are challenging the OSHA citations, which were issued on Aug. 25.
The lawsuit, safety citations, and investigative records provide the most detailed public accounting to date of the deadly collapse, which occurred one week after two workers repairing a sewer line were killed at a construction site in Boston’s Financial District. Last month, OHSA announced it wants to impose $1.3 million in fines for workplace safety violations it uncovered at the Boston job site.
In an e-mail, a spokesman for STRUCTURAL said it “continues to extend its thoughts, prayers and sympathy” to Stuck’s family and wishes Robert “a speedy recovery.” Mike Biesiada, the spokesman, said the company “strongly disagrees” with the OSHA citations. He declined to comment further, citing the lawsuit, OSHA action, and an investigation by the city of Cambridge.
The company was awarded a contract for the project in September 2020 after it submitted the lowest bid at just under $1.5 million, city records show.
Lawyers for LBR Property Services didn’t respond to requests for comment. An attorney handling the wrongful death lawsuit declined to comment.
A State Police report said Stuck and Robert were removing metal railings inside a stairwell on the garage’s fourth floor when the stairs gave way. Robert fell to the first floor and was taken to Massachusetts General Hospital. Stuck was pronounced dead at the scene.
Photographs taken inside the stairwell after the collapse show rusted steel and concrete stairs that had broken free and landed precariously on a platform covered by debris. The photographs showed holes in some of the concrete stair treads.
OHSA inspectors issued five citations each to both companies, faulting them for failing to protect workers from possible falls or structural collapse and not conducting an engineering survey to assess the work area before demolition began. Inspectors said the companies also didn’t check to ensure that the job site was structurally safe for workers.
A spokesman for the city of Cambridge didn’t respond Thursday to inquiries about the status of the parking garage renovation project.
In Boston, the City Council on Monday plans to discuss concerns about construction site safety during a virtual hearing before its Committee on Small Business and Workforce Development.
Councilors Michael Flaherty, Ed Flynn, and Liz Breadon pushed for the hearing following revelations that Atlantic Coast Utilities, the company involved in the construction fatalities on Feb. 24 in Boston’s Financial District, had failed to disclose in August 2019 and December 2020 that it had been cited by OSHA for workplace safety violations, as required by the city.