The masonry company currently working on the North Quad residential and academic complex is under criminal investigation by the State Attorney General’s office, according to an official from the Michigan Occupational Safety and Health Administration.
The Attorney General’s office is currently reviewing the February 2008 on-site death at the University of Michigan Museum of Art of 32-year-old Leo Felty, Jr., a worker for the subcontractor Davenport Masonry, Inc.
Felty, a Pinckney, Mich. native, fell from scaffolding last February while working on the $42-million addition to UMMA. He was nearly 40 feet from the ground when he stepped backwards off of his scaffold, which, according MIOSHA construction safety standards, should have had a guardrail installed on all open sides. He died on impact, officials confirmed.
In response, MIOSHA cited Davenport Masonry for four separate violations of construction safety standards, totaling $61,600 in fines. Three of those were classified as “willful violations,” the most serious form of OSHA citations.
Davenport Masonry has appealed the citations, according to MIOSHA Construction Safety and Health Division Director Bob Pawlowski.
The gravity of citations classified as “willful” merit automatic referral to the Michigan Attorney General’s office, Pawlowski said.
“When we issue willful violations, as we did in this case, they’re directly associated with a fatality,” Pawlowski said. “This means that an employer knew of certain rules, and consciously ignored them … We are required by law to send it to the criminal division of the Attorney General’s office.”
The Office of the Attorney General is “currently reviewing to determine whether or not they will prosecute,” Pawlowski said. “They will inform us when they decide — to our knowledge, they haven’t made a final decision.”
Office of the Attorney General Spokesman Nick De Leeuw refused to give information about when a decision whether to prosecute would be reached, but Pawlowski said he anticipates it would be made within the next few months.
MIOSHA has inspected Davenport Masonry on eight separate occasions over the past five years and has cited the company for more than a dozen safety violations, according to records on the U.S. Department of Labor’s website.
Several calls to officials from Davenport Masonry over the last week went unreturned.
Marina Roelofs, the executive director of Architecture, Engineering and Construction at the University, said Davenport Masonry was chosen for the North Quad project before Felty’s death. She also said Davenport was not directly vetted by the University for either project because in both cases Davenport was acting as a subcontractor.
The University never directly screens sub-contractors, but Architecture, Engineering and Construction does perform a “full pre-qualification” for construction managers that includes scrutiny of the firm’s hiring process for subcontractors.
“That’s one of the criteria that we look at,” Roelofs said.
Swedish construction company Skanska was the construction manager for the UMMA project.
Davenport Masonry, based in Holt, Mich., lists an extensive portfolio of projects for various colleges and universities, religious facilities and office buildings on its website. Among these are many University structures, including the Replacement Hospital Enclosure, the Biomedical Science Research Building, the Ambulatory and the School of Public Health. Davenport also worked on the Michigan Theatre on State Street.
Most recently, the company was tapped to help construct the new $175 million North Quad residential and academic complex located at 105 S. State St. To ensure safety at this new site, MIOSHA performed standard planned inspections this past May and July.
“We have done two inspections and they have both been clean,” Pawlowski said. “We want to see firms being more diligent about adhering to our standards, especially after serious violations.”
Though the willful violations against Davenport Masonry are grounds for concern, violations against construction companies are more commonplace than generally expected.
Barton Malow Co., the contractor working on C.S. Mott’s Children’s and Women’s Hospital and the Michigan Stadium renovation, has been cited for 36 violations since 2005, according to the U.S. Department of Labor’s website. Walbridge Aldinger, the general contractor working on North Quad that also built the new Hill Dining Center, has had six violations levied against them since 2005. None of the violations for either company, however, were classified as willful.