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I-95 work site was ‘not inspected by a competent person’ before deaths, OSHA says

Miami Fire Rescue workers try to get to Abel Orlando Zuniga-Fajardo and Osman Aldubin Montalvan-Ardon after a concrete barrier fell on them Feb. 4.
Miami Fire Rescue workers try to get to Abel Orlando Zuniga-Fajardo and Osman Aldubin Montalvan-Ardon after a concrete barrier fell on them Feb. 4. Miami Fire Rescue

Before a concrete barrier fatally crashed onto Abel Orlando Zuniga-Fajardo and Osman Aldubin Montalvan-Ardon in February, Archer Western Construction failed the men in training and setup of their Interstate 95 work trench.

That’s according to the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration, which proposed fining Archer Western $33,259 after investigating the Feb. 4 deaths of the two workers from Honduras. They were working on storm drainage pipes in the center median of I-95 just north of the Northwest 62nd Street exits when the barrier fell on them.

Zuniga-Fajardo, 37, and Montalvan-Ardon, 33, were declared dead on the highway by Miami Fire Rescue.

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“Trenching and excavation work is especially dangerous when appropriate protective systems are not used,” OSHA Fort Lauderdale Area Office Director Condell Eastmond said in the Department of Labor’s announcement. “This tragedy could have been prevented if the employer had ensured that adjoining structures were shored, braced, or underpinned to avoid a collapse.”

Archer Western, which is based in Atlanta and is part of Chicago-based Walsh Construction Group, has 15 days to pay, request a meeting with OSHA’s area director in Fort Lauderdale or contest the fines. The company has not yet responded for comment.

OSHA found only three “serious” violations, but proposed the maximum fines on the second and third citations. From the citation report:

A proposed fine of $7,391 because workers were “exposed to struck-by and/or caught-between hazards when performing trenching work prior to being provided with a training program that would enable them to recognize and avoid the hazards associated with trenching.”

A proposed fine of $12,934, the maximum allowed, because workers were “exposed to struck-by and/or caught-between hazards when performing trench work adjacent to and below a concrete barrier wall that was not shored, braced and/or underpinned.”

A proposed fine of $12,934, the maximum allowed, because workers were “exposing to struck-by and/or caught-between hazards when performing trenching work in a trench that was not inspected by a competent person prior to work commencing and as the work progressed for any hazards associated with the trench.”

“Competent” also appears in the rule Archer Western violated in an April 12, 2017, incident in Tampa. OSHA said a worker suffered “multiple fractures” after he fell 30 feet (or about three stories) in an elevator shaft because a bracket scaffold wasn’t attached properly.

The applied rule reads, “Scaffolds shall be erected, moved, dismantled or altered only under the supervision and direction of a competent person qualified in scaffold erection, moving, dismantling or alteration. Such activities shall be performed only by experienced and trained employees selected for such work by the competent person.”

According to the OSHA website, Archer Western’s $10,267 fine has been referred to debt collection.

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