OR-OSHA reaches $1 million settlement on 1997 airport garage collapse

SALEM - The Oregon Occupational Safety & Health Division (OR-OSHA) announced that a $1 million settlement agreement has been reached regarding the multiple-count citation issued to Midwest Steel as a result of the July 31, 1997 collapse of a parking garage under construction at Portland International Airport (PDX). The structure collapse killed three union Iron Workers.

The settlement agreement was reached with Divest Steel Inc., formerly Midwest Steel. Under the terms of the agreement, the company will pay $140,000 in civil penalties for two willful violations of the Oregon Safe Employment Act, and also agrees to invest $860,000 into the company's employee safety and health programs. One willful violation states that steel sections were connected together with one bolt instead of the OR-OSHA-required minimum of two bolts per connection, while a second willful violation states the structural steel was not properly stabilized using guy lines or bracing to prevent a collapse.

In the settlement agreement the company admits that violations of safety regulations occurred on the PDX garage worksite.

"The company is taking responsibility for creating a safer working environment by entering in to this agreement," said Peter De Luca, administrator of OR-OSHA. "Due to extensive restructuring, the modern company bears no resemblance to the one involved in the 1997 incident. The key leaders who directed these operations five years ago are no longer decision-makers at this company. It makes no sense to continue a legal process against an employer that has made progress on safety issues when they are willing to accept responsibility and back it up with a significant expenditure of funds."

Killed in the accident were apprentice Donn Soto of Portland Iron Workers Local 29, Nick Colouzis of Seattle Local 86, and Christopher Rider of Alaska Local 751.

April 19, 2002 issue

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