OSHA probes fatality stemming from wood floor to concrete slab design change

Sources: Occupational Safety and Health Administration; CP staff

OSHA has proposed nearly $80,000 in fines for Great Southern Building Systems, LLC, Pearl River, La., for safety violations related to concrete formwork collapse during the reconstruction of a Hurricane Isaac-damaged restaurant in Kiln, Miss. Great Southern served as a subcontractor to Berthelot Design Systems, whose principal and sole employee, Gary Berthelot, was trapped and killed by falling concrete and debris while placing supports as slab pouring commenced above him.

OSHA investigators found that Berthelot did not obtain revised engineering plans with supports for a concrete slab versus a wood floor as detailed in the original design. Waiving citations and penalties for Berthelot Design Systems, the agency issued Great Southern a) one willful citation for exposing workers to being struck-by material, as the slab formwork was not built to handle the load on it; and, b) two serious citations for not installing formwork to support the concrete floor as it was poured and not having engineering plans.

“Great Southern Building Systems failed in its responsibility to protect its employees, despite being warned that the floor was unstable,” says OSHA Jackson (Miss.) Area Office Director Eugene Stewart. “This tragedy could have been prevented had the employer obtained new engineering plans and followed the requirements.”