Contractor helping build Suffolk Amazon facility fined for deadly 2020 collapse


SUFFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — Federal safety inspectors have slapped a subcontractor helping to build Amazon’s new sprawling Suffolk fulfillment center with a six-figure fine after two workers were killed in a collapse last year.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) cited Louisiana-based Eastern Constructors Inc. with 12 violations in February. One of the violations was classified as “willful,” meaning inspectors found “a violation in which the employer either knowingly failed to comply with a legal requirement … or acted with plain indifference to employee safety.”

Salvador Jovel Serrano, 32, of the Republic of Honduras, and Jose Roberto Cuevas-Macias, 34, of Mexico, both worked for the company and were killed in the incident on Saturday, Aug 29.

OSHA is fining the Eastern Constructors more than $170,500 for violations that include failing to follow column anchorage standards, failing to keep structural stability during the construction process and using worn cables.

The company was on-site to perform structural steelwork on Amazon’s soon-to-be-completed 3.8-million-square-foot, multi-story robotics fulfillment center off Northgate Commerce Parkway.

When the $200-million project was announced, then-Mayor Linda Johnson said it would be “the largest industrial building in Virginia.”

Serrano and Cuevas-Macias were both working on connecting a structural steam beam to the fifth-floor roof when the collapse occurred, according to OSHA’s investigation summary.

“The crane began to hoist the steel beam into position when the structure collapsed,” the report reads.

The falling beams hit the aerial lifts Serrano and Cuevas-Macias were standing on and sent the men plummeting 54 feet to the foundation.

“Both employees were killed by blunt force trauma to their entire bodies,” the OSHA report said.

Eastern Constructors did not immediately respond to WAVY-TV requests for comment. However, according to OSHA, they are contesting the violations.

This is the second time in five years the company has been fined in Virginia in connection with an employee death.

Records show violations totaling $9,000 for the 2016 death of a worker in Chantilly. OSHA said in that case, proper head protection wasn’t used and Virginia decking rules were not followed.

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