Federal Government Fine Five West Campus Parking Garage Contractors More Than $38,000

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration cited Ajax, along with four other companies, that have been fined by federal job-safety officials for what investigators concluded was their failure to properly erect and inspect the Miami Dade College West Campus parking garage.

Ajax Building Corp., the general contractor; Coreslab Structures Miami, which fabricated structural components; Florida Lemark Corp., the grouting contractor; MEP Structural and Inspections, which was responsible for inspections; and Solar Erectors US, the erecting contractor, were fined more than $38,000, according to the OSHA citations released earlier this month, for errors that caused last October’s collapse of the college parking garage.

The individual fines range from $4,900 to $7,000. All the citations were marked ‘Serious’ under type violation which under federal law allows for a maximum $7,000 penalty.

OSHA citations released April 10  found evidence of missing welds and grout, failure to properly brace columns and failure to inspect the structure as required. OSHA also said contractors didn’t follow project drawings.

“The OSHA review of the October 2012 construction accident is still underway” said Alia Faraj, a spokesperson for Ajax. “Ajax continues to actively cooperate with OSHA in its review through the informal conference process, and out of respect for that process we will reserve any comment until the review is concluded.

Four workers died and several were injured in the Oct. 10 collapse at the college’s Doral campus.

Families of the workers killed in the collapse have also filed lawsuits that could cost the contractors much more.

These citations and findings seem to back up the plaintiff’s claim that the reason for the collapse of the garage was from inadequate cement at the base of the column and failed inspection.

Ervin Gonzalez’s, an attorney representing several victims and their families, claim in court March 28 said that the unsecured column shifted when the garage was struck by a crane.

“Column B3 did not have the cement at the base causing the collapse,” said Gonzalez, through e-mail, when asked about his theory.

The first reports following the collapse said the cause had been that a crane had struck the column, hence making the structure unstable, and causing it to pancake down.

Gonzalez said that the crane incident may have shifted the already unsupported column, but that the lack of cement is the reason the column failed.

The garage project involved use of precast concrete construction, a method in which massive concrete pieces are created off-site and slotted into place by workers often using large cranes.

In regards to the recent citation the contractors received, Gonzalez said: “This confirms what we already knew. The project was an accident waiting to happen. Many structural deficiencies that made the collapse a virtual certainty.”

Miami Dade College said  “There is nothing on which to comment at this juncture. These developments and other recent legal proceedings have nothing to do directly with the college. We will comment at the appropriate time in the future when all facts are known. Thoroughness in this process, not expeditiousness, remains our top priority.” said Juan Mendieta, director of communications for MDC.

Killed during the accident were Robert Budhoo, 53; Carlos Hurtado de Mendoza, 48; Jose Calderon, 60; and Samuel Perez, 53. All of the men were working at the construction site.

Officials broke ground on the  $22.5 million dollar garage—the project of the Ajax Building Corporation—in February 2012. It was expected to be completed in late December 2012, and was scheduled to include more than 1,500 parking spaces, an amphitheatre, an outdoor area and a partially covered stage.