By TIM ROWDEN
Fe Equus, the Milwaukee-based developer of The Last Hotel at 1501 Washington Ave. where two workers fell to their deaths in an elevator shaft June 4 has cut ties with non-union demolition and asbestos abatement contractor GenCorp Services Inc. that was responsible for safety on the project.
The demolition scope of work that GenCorp had been hired to perform was at least six months behind schedule.
Laborers Local 42 Business Manager Brandon Flinn said three union contractors – Hunt Environmental of St. Louis, Wyandotte Corp. of East St. Louis, IL, and Hayden Wrecking, of Washington Park, IL – have been hired to complete the remaining demolition and environmental remediation – ensuring the remaining work will adhere to all safety rules and environmental regulations and that it will be completed on schedule.
“Our signatory contractors not only employ the highest skilled and safety trained union Laborers but they also employ construction industry professionals in estimating and project management, that together routinely complete construction schedules on time and under budget,” Flinn said.
“The general contractors and owners expect the construction schedules to be maintained and union contractors deliver,” Flinn added. “You get what you pay for.”
THE FATAL ACCIDENT
Joey Hale, 44, and Ben Ricks, 58, both of St. Louis, were working in a spider basket suspended inside an elevator shaft on the sixth floor of the former International Shoe Building, which is being converted into a hotel, when the cable holding the basket snapped.
Hale and Ricks were working for World Wrecking, a subcontractor of GenCorp, cutting out the elevator shaft when the fatal accident occurred.
Why the cable snapped and why the two men were apparently not properly secured to secondary safety cables is under investigation by the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration and the City of St. Louis.
If the job was being performed properly, both men should also have been harnessed to secondary safety lines, secured outside of the basket, to prevent them from falling if the equipment failed.
UNION LABORERS WERE LET GO AFTER REPORTING HEALTH AND SAFETY CONCERNS
World Wrecking had initially hired three Laborers Local 42 members to perform the work, but let go after they expressed concerns regarding asbestos removal and fall hazards on the jobsite and Local 42 notified OSHA that non-licensed, non-certified workers were being used to remove asbestos without proper suits or respiratory equipment.
OSHA conducted an inspection, but notified GenCorp before doing so and provided the company with the specifics of the allegations and who had filed the complaint.
Shortly thereafter, the three Local 42 members working on the job were told the cutting torch work they were performing was ahead of schedule and the rest of the job was running behind so there was no work for them to perform.
World Wrecking replaced the three union Laborers with Ricks and Hale, the two men who were killed.
Since the accident, at least five former GenCorp employees have joined Local 42 and been placed with union contractors.