Builders of US Bank Stadium face fines over worker's death

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An investigation into the death of a construction worker at U.S. Bank Stadium has led to fines against the main contractor and a sub contractor of the construction project.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration's investigation led to fines against M.A. Mortenson Co. and Berwald Roofing & Sheet Metal in the death of Berwald employee Jeramie Gruber, 35, of Northfield.

Gruber died in August of 2015 after he fell 50 feet while working on the stadium. He was one of two workers who fell during the incident – the other worker was not identified, but was seriously injured, suffering a gash on his leg that required 48 stitches.

OSHA levied a $34,300 fine against Golden Valley-based Mortenson for a "serious" violation of general safety and health provisions. Subcontractor Berwald Roofing was fined for three violations totaling $139,100:

  • $70,000 for a "willful" violation of fall protection system requirements
  • $44,100 for a "serious" violation of general safety and health provisions
  • $25,000 for a "serious" violation of OSHA's general duty clause

Neither Mortenson nor Berwald have said whether or not a safety harness was worn by either Gruber or the other worker. Berwald does have some history of safety violations related to workers not using safety harnesses though.

According to the Star Tribune, Berwald received nine worksite citations for serious violations during six inspections over the five years preceding the accident at the stadium. The company faced fines totaling more than $12,500.

The Business Journal notes that both companies are contesting the penalties.

Mortenson's Senior Vice President John Wood issued a statement on Wednesday.

"Mortenson continues to work with OSHA regarding a final determination relative to its citation. We were and remain deeply saddened by this terrible accident and understand how devastating it has been for all those affected by it, especially the families involved. At Mortenson, safety is a core value and we are committed to eliminating the risk of injury on all of our projects. We will never lose that focus and we will continue to ensure it is the foremost priority."

Construction attorney Bob Huber told Finance and Commerce that in cases like this one the family often sues for negligence after the official investigation is concluded. Huber says employers often don't want to acknowledge an OSHA violation because it could be used against them in a lawsuit.

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