Construction Companies Cited in Atlanta Botanical Gardens Tragedy That Left 1 Dead Appeal Fines

Last weekend, on Father’s Day, the Atlanta Botanical Gardens offered a special allowing all dads in for half priced admission. But for some, it may have been hard to forget the tragedy that occurred there back in December of last year when a walkway collapse killed 1 and injured 18.

Construction workers were pouring concrete for an elevated walkway when the structure suddenly collapsed, sending workers tumbling at least 30 feet to land on a damp hillside. The fatality was 66-year-old Angel Chupin, a concrete worker employed by SDC, a Kennesaw construction company. Chupin was survived by a wife and eleven children. According to Chupin’s son Raul, his father had concerns about the scaffolding he was working on, stating that it should have been 6 feet, and not 12 feet, apart.

Chupin knew what he was talking about. The dangerous scaffolding came up again in an investigation by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). OSHA reported that four of 16 towers used in laying the concrete were too far apart and insufficiently anchored.

The accident led OSHA last week to fine three of the companies involved in the accident. Hardin Construction Company of Atlanta was fined $6,300 for their involvement in the accident. Southeast Access of Kennesaw was fined $4,900 for failure to properly inspect the towers, and Williams Erection Company of Smyrna received the largest fine, $15,050 for building the towers too tall and failing to properly brace them. The towers ranged in height from 5 feet to 35 feet.

However, at least two of the construction companies are appealing the fines. A spokesman for Hardin Construction cited the company’s exemplary safety record when commenting to the Atlanta Journal Constitution on the appeal. An earlier AJC article, though, found several instances where Hardin had been cited for multiple previous safety violations carrying thousands of dollars in fines. One of Hardin’s subcontractors, Pioneer Concrete, had also lost a man on the job before and in a later lawsuit, admitted its sole negligence in the death.

Hardin Construction and Williams Erection are both planning to appeal the fines. Federal law gives them 15 days to do so. There was no word yet from Southeast Access about whether they planned to follow suit and appeal the findings as well.

Meanwhile, the Atlanta Botanical Garden is going ahead with the plans for a “Canopy Walk” – the original exhibit the construction workers were working on at the time of the collapse. Construction on the exhibit is slated to begin again late this summer with an expected opening date of 2010. The Botanical Garden plans also to dedicate a private garden to the workers and their families at the same time.

If you have been injured on the job, you have legal rights. Click here for our Worker’s Compensation page and to read further about your rights under Georgia’s Worker Compensation Laws. If you have been injured, call MLN Law at (404) 531-9700 for caring, aggressive legal representation.