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News Release

Fatal Staten Island mezzanine collapse 'should never have happened'

Formica Construction's willful disregard led to death of 46-year-old demolition worker

AVENEL, N.J. — The life of a 46-year-old demolition worker, killed in a building collapse in November 2014 at a Staten Island auto dealership, could have been spared if his employer had not disregarded federal safety rules.

Delfino Jesus Velazquez Mendizabal died when the mezzanine of the former Dana Ford Lincoln dealership collapsed on him. A husband and father, Mendizabal was employed by Formica Construction Co. Inc., a Port Richmond, New York, contractor.

U.S. Department of Labor Occupational Safety and Health Administration inspectors found Formica Construction willfully disregarded demolition safety protocols designed to prevent such incidents.

"This worker's death should never have happened," said Patricia Jones, OSHA's area director for Staten Island. "Had Formica Construction chosen to plan and carry out the demolition correctly, this collapse would not have occurred, and Mr. Mendizabal would not have died."

OSHA inspectors found that the company did not conduct a required pre-demolition engineering survey to determine the building's stability and a possible structural collapse. Once work had begun, Formica Construction ignored required safety practices by removing load-supporting sections of walls and floors before upper-level sections of the building were demolished and removed. The company also did not shore or brace the walls and floors against collapse while employees worked in the building.

In addition, as the demolition proceeded, Formica did not conduct ongoing inspections to identify hazards created by weakened or deteriorated walls and floors. The company also failed to train its employees to recognize and avoid demolition hazards. Formica also did not keep a record of on-the-job injuries and illnesses.

As a result of these actions, OSHA has cited Formica Construction for three willful, three serious and one other- than-serious violation of OSHA standards. Proposed fines total $121,000. The citations can be viewed here.

"No enforcement action will bring Mr. Mendizabal back to his family, friends and co-workers, but future tragedies can be prevented. Employers doing demolitions should remember this fatal incident, take note of these violations and follow procedures, so that other workers are not killed or injured," said Jones.

Formica Construction Co. has 15 business days from receipt of its citations and proposed penalties to comply, meet with OSHA's area director, or contest the findings before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.

To ask questions, obtain compliance assistance, file a complaint or report workplace hospitalizations, fatalities or situations posing imminent danger to workers, the public should call OSHA's toll-free hotline at 800-321-OSHA (6742) or the agency's Avenel Area Office at 732-750-3270.

Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, employers are responsible for providing safe and healthful workplaces for their employees. OSHA's role is to ensure these conditions for America's working men and women by setting and enforcing standards, and providing training, education and assistance. For more information, visit http://www.osha.gov.

  • Read this news release in Spanish.

OSHA News Brief: [05/28/2015]
Contact Name: Ted Fitzgerald or Andre J. Bowser
Phone Number: (617) 565-2075 or x2074
Email: Fitzgerald.Edmund@dol.gov or Bowser.Andre.J@dol.gov
Release Number: 15-1018-NEW