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Worker death at U-M site is probed
Updated On: Aug 29, 2008

Worker death at U-M site is probed

Inspectors visit business school construction area
Tuesday, August 05, 2008
The Ann Arbor News

An investigation into the death of a Jackson man at a University of Michigan job site Monday could take several weeks to complete, a state investigator said Monday.

David J. Smith, 31, an employee of Schindler Elevator Corp., died after he fell five floors down an empty elevator shaft in a building under construction at the Stephen M. Ross School of Business.

It was the second death at a U-M construction site in the last six months.



A state safety inspector from the Michigan Occupational Safety and Health Administration visited the business school job site Monday to began investigating whether state safety regulations were violated.

"We will be looking at the work site, trying to determine what MIOSHA standards apply, and whether or not those particular standards were complied with,'' said Bob Pawlowski, director of the Michigan Department of Occupational Safety and Health Administration's construction safety and health divisions.

Pawlowski said state standards require contractors to install fall protection systems such as guardrails, or alternative arrangements such as safety harnesses.

"This tragic accident that resulted in a loss of life has greatly saddened all associated with the project,'' said Marina Roelofs, U-M executive director for the department of architecture, engineering and construction, in a statement.

Work has been suspended to provide full access to the site for a comprehensive investigation, she said.

"We are reacting as best we can to find out exactly what happened,'' said Wes Cotter, the communications director for Gilbane-Clark, the project's construction management company, from the firm's Rhode Island offices. "Right now our thoughts and prayers go out to the family.''

Cotter said he anticipated that work would resume at the job site today.

The Ann Arbor Fire Department reported that it responded to a 911 call about the accident at 6:29 a.m. Fire reports said Smith's co-workers started CPR, which was continued by emergency responders when they arrived. Resuscitation efforts were unsuccessful and Smith was pronounced dead at 6:45 a.m., the fire department report said.

The work site is a new $145 million, seven-story building at the corner of Tappan and Hill streets, on the western side of the business school campus. The project replaces older business school facilities that have been demolished. Much of the exterior work is finished and workers are finishing the interior of the facility, which is anticipated to be complete in December.

The project had been proceeding smoothly and on schedule, said Chuck Clark, president of Clark Construction Co. of Lansing.

"Both Gilbane and Clark have remarkable safety records, as does Schindler,'' said Clark. "We're all just devastated.''

In the other fatal work accident at U-M this year, a Pinckney man was killed in February when he fell 38 feet from scaffolding at the site of the expansion of the U-M Museum of Art on State Street. MIOSHA fined the contractor $62,000 after discovering that guardrails were not installed at the ends of the scaffolding and that wooden planking for workers to stand on did not extend the full length of the scaffolding, among other violations.

MIOSHA found that the contractor was rushing to redo a portion of its work on the exterior of the addition and knowingly disregarded safety procedures.

Dave Gershman can be reached at 734-994-6818 or

Ann Arbor Firefighters Local 693
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