State Finds “Serious Violations” at Schindler Elevator After Levi's Stadium Death

The state agency that oversees workplace safety announced fines Tuesday against Schindler Elevator Company for three "serious violations" after one of its elevator mechanics died in June while working on the new  Levi's Stadium, the future home of the San Francisco 49ers.

The California Division of Occupational Safety and Health Department announced its findings (PDF) first to NBC Bay Area on Wednesday, and fined the company a total of $54,000 - $18,000 for each finding.

Schindler Elevator Corp., which has an office in San Leandro, was notified of the fines on Tuesday and has 15 days to appeal. In a statement, Schindler stated that the company 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 statement read.

The penalties stem from the June 11 death of  63-year-old Donald White, who was standing on a ladder beneath the counter-weight of an elevator when the weight came down and struck him on the east side of the construction site. In October, OSHA representatives said that investigators had found no fault with Schindler, but the agency re-opened the case after a supervisor had some questions about the initial report.

MORE: Elevator Worker Dies at Levi's Stadium

Schindler Corp. referred to the earlier "no fault" finding in its statement:

"We are aware, and were surprised to learn that Cal-OSHA has rescinded a "notice of no violation" earlier issued following the agency's  detailed and thorough investigation of the facts and circumstances surrounding this incident.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.  Citations were issued on December 11, 2013. We believe that Cal-OSHA's initial notice of no violation was an appropriate conclusion."

That re-opening of the investigation came just after a second Levi's Stadium worker, Edward Erving Lake Jr., was killed on Oct. 14. The 61-year-old driver for Gerdau Ameristeel was killed when a bundle of rebar being unloaded from his truck by a forklift fell off the side of his truck and on top of him. That investigation is still open.

Cal-OSHA can fine a company $7,000 for general and regulatory violations, $25,000 for a serious violation and from $5,000 to $70,000 for a willful violation of occupational safety codes.

Turner Devcon of Milpitas is the main contractor building the  new $1.3 billion stadium, and  Schindler Elevator Corporation, has headquarters in Switzerland and Morristown, NJ, and a satellite office in San Leandro. Turner Devcon was not found in any type of violation.

The OSHA violations after Lake's death are:

  • Mounting the electrical equipment near the counterweight runway in a hazardous manner, putting employees in a danger zone. Failing to identify a "danger zone" highlighting to employees that elevators are moving and could cause harm. Failing to establish effective procedures for ensuring that employees are outside the zone of danger created by moving parts of an elevator before activating the elevator.
  • Failing to ensure that the counterweights had been installed with guards, as required. "Such failure exposed employees working within the elevator hoistway and pit to the hazardous reciprocating and running actions of the counterweights."
  • Failing to install protective guards around other machinery that can cause hazard or harm.

This is not the first time Schindler has been fined.

According to Cal-OSHA, Schindler Corp.'s San Leandro office was fined $25,000 in April 2011 for what the agency deemed as a "serious accident"  (PDF) at a construction site in Palo Alto. In that case, Kenneth Andrews, 32, suffered multiple fractures when he fell 19 feet into an elevator shaft at 1501 Page Mill Road, the report states.

Since 2008, the company's California worksites have been fined six other times for other accidents stemming from places including Chula Vista, Redondo Beach, San Diego and Sacramento, according to OSHA records online. The total cost of those fines during that time period cost Schindler about $165,000.

Schindler has had other problems around the country, too. A fan sued the New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority and the Schindler Elevator Co. when an elevator at the former Giants Stadium sent fans tumbling down on top of each other on Oct. 1, 2006 after the New York Jets played Indianapolis. Another Schindler escalator malfunctioned after a December 2007 game sending five people to the hospital. The plaintiffs in that case settled with Schindler.

As it plans to contest the citations, Schindler did state that the company is sorry over what happened.

"Schindler regrets any time there is an injury or fatality with any of our employees. Our thoughts remain with Mr. White’s family.   "

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