U.S. Bank Stadium contractor Mortenson Construction and subcontractor Berwald Roofing paid fines totaling $147,500 — a penalty lower than initially proposed — in order to settle a case with OSHA for safety violations in the death of one worker and injuries to another in August 2015.
The two companies were cited in June after an investigation by the state Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) determined that “serious” and “willful” infractions had occurred. The inspection reports, with citations and fines, were contested, an action that resulted in some being downgraded to lesser offenses.
The most severe violation at the time — and largest fine — faulted Berwald for willfully failing to have workers use proper protection against falls while working at heights above 6 feet. Neither worker was wearing a harness, officials confirmed Thursday.
In the settlement, this violation was downgraded to “serious,” resulting in a smaller fine.
Early on Aug. 26, 2015, Jeramie Gruber, a 35-year-old Faribault native, died and a second unidentified worker was seriously injured in a fall from the $1.1 billion building. The injured man suffered a gash on his leg that required 48 stitches.
The men, both Berwald employees, were carrying sheet rock on the north side of the stadium roof when they slipped on a layer of wet PVC membrane, according to the OSHA report.
As they slid down the roof, the unidentified worker struck the guardrail system and was able to hold on. But Gruber broke through the guardrail and continued to slide to the roof’s edge, where he fell 25 feet to his death.
Employers must equip construction workers with fall protection — such as guardrails, safety nets and harnesses — but can determine which is most suitable for the job. In this case, only guardrails were used.
“The standard wasn’t met,” said James Honerman, communications director for the Minnesota Department of Labor and Industry. “The plan they had in place wasn’t adequate.”
Gruber was the only man to die on the construction project.
Mortenson was cited for one “serious” safety violation for failing to provide frequent inspections of job sites and materials, but that was downgraded to “nonserious.” A $34,300 penalty was imposed.
Liz Sawyer • 612-673-4648