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Published October 30 2012

Fargo contractor faces penalties for fatal construction accident at West Fargo school

WEST FARGO – A Fargo contractor faces $21,000 in proposed penalties for a May 25 construction accident that killed a 30-year-old man who was working on the high school addition to Sheyenne 9th Grade Center in West Fargo.

Trevor Skarphol of Fargo was killed when a 28-foot steel beam fell on him.

The federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration alleges that project contractor Lee Jones & Son Construction Co. committed three serious violations related to the erection of steel columns and the use of anchor rods.

“OSHA alleges these were related to the conditions that caused his death,” said Eric Brooks, acting area director at the OSHA office in Bismarck.

Brooks said OSHA did not find any violations by Skarphol’s employer, Scott’s Electric of Wahpeton, a subcontractor on the project.

Representatives of Lee Jones & Sons are scheduled to meet with OSHA officials this afternoon in Bismarck for an informal conference to discuss the findings and attempt to negotiate a settlement, Brooks said.

If a settlement can’t be reached, the company may accept the findings and pay the penalties or contest the findings before an independent commission within 15 business days of receiving the citations.

One of the proposed citations is a violation of OSHA’s general duty clause, which states that employers must provide employees with a workplace “free from recognized hazards that are causing or are likely to cause death or serious physical harm.”

The other two citations are specific to OSHA rules for erecting steel.

One rule states, “All columns shall be evaluated by a competent person to determine whether guying or bracing is needed; if guying or bracing is needed, it shall be installed.” Guying involves steadying an object with a rope, cord or cable.

The other rule states: “Anchor rods (anchor bolts) shall not be repaired, replaced or field-modified without the approval of the project structural engineer of record.”

After the May 25 accident, a West Fargo police detective said the steel beam had been bolted into place but somehow came loose. Skarphol was wearing a hard hat at the time of the accident, which was reported shortly after noon on a school day.

Tim Jones, president of Lee Jones & Son, could not be reached for comment.

Readers can reach Forum reporter

Mike Nowatzki at (701) 241-5528