OSHA fines Duckels in Steamboat death
Construction company will fight citation related to Brady Meier’s death
April 21, 2010
Steamboat Springs — Duckels Construction plans to fight two serious violations and fines of $7,000 relating to the death of worker Brady Meier.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration issued a citation detailing the violations April 9.
The first states that Duckels did not install an irrigation system in a safe manner.
The second violation states that Duckels did not adequately train its employees about the hazards of pressurized pipes.
"We're going to appeal" to OSHA, Duckels owner Fred Duckels said Wednesday. "There has been a whole lot of speculation about the whole process, but we feel it's nothing but speculation."
A search of OSHA records dating to 1972 showed that Duckels has no previous violations. OSHA would not elaborate on the citation because the case is still open.
"It just confirms that the tragic death of this young man should never of occurred," said Michael S. Burg, an Englewood attorney representing Meier's widow.
The Routt County coroner ruled and reaffirmed Wednesday that the Hayden man was killed by a blast of compressed air that entered his ear, burst his eardrum and caused a brain hemorrhage. He was working near the base of Steamboat Ski Area on Oct. 9 in a small utility vault when the compression fitting on a 2-inch copper pipe burst off. Meier was taken to Yampa Valley Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead. Investigators initially thought the compression fitting from the pipe hit Meier, but the autopsy ruled that Meier was killed by the compressed air that had built up in the pipe.
The OSHA report concluded that the 3.5-pound compression fitting that burst off the pipe was not designed for use above ground with compressed air. There was also no restraining device in place.
Duckels contends that his workers installed and used the piping correctly.
"We just do what is engineered and drawn up," Duckels said. "We go with the plans."
Duckels also is not convinced that the blast of compressed air is what killed Meier.
"It's an air blast," Duckels said. "Why didn't it knock his hard hat off? Why didn't it knock his glasses off?"
In regard to the citation involving employee training, OSHA concluded that employees were not trained to select and install compression fittings. They also were not trained to empty air from the pipe before pressuring the pipe with water, the citation stated.
Duckels said his workers who installed the a pipe were part of pipe crew with years of experience. They were not licensed plumbers, but that certification was not necessary for the exterior work, he said.
Duckels insisted that the fitting was installed correctly and that there are still unanswered questions.
"I just don't know," he said. "I'd love to know the reason, and there are going to be a lot of people that speculate for monetary reasons."
With Duckels' appeal, OSHA will forward the case to an administrative law judge.
Burg, attorney with the Burg Simpson law firm, last month put members of the Steamboat Springs City Council on notice that they could be named as defendants in a future wrongful death lawsuit. Burg said Wednesday that no lawsuit has been filed and he could not speculate on what businesses or people would be included in a lawsuit. Base area redevelopment coordinator Joe Kracum said Wenk Associates, a Denver-based landscape architecture firm, designed the project.
Burg contends that his construction experts have confirmed the project was designed, engineered and constructed poorly.
"We're proceeding with the natural course to make sure we're looking at everything before we file a complaint," Burg said.
Duckels will soon resume work on public improvement projects at the base area. On Tuesday, the City Council reaffirmed a $4.5 million contract for the company to build a promenade and daylight part of Burgess Creek.
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