By Jim Smith
QUINCY, Mass. — After a six-month investigation, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration of the U.S. Department of Labor has concluded that the deaths last August of two young Irishmen, Shane McGettigan and Ronan Stewart, were caused by "serious and willful" violations of OSHA safety standards by three Massachusetts contractors.
McGettigan, 21, of Drumshanbo, Co. Leitrim, and Stewart, 23, of Dundalk, Co. Louth, were removing bricks from the side of a 12-story condominium in Quincy on Aug. 11 when the scaffold buckled beneath them, plunging them amid tons of rubble to their deaths.
"Our investigation concluded that the primary cause of the collapse was the overloading of the scaffold with brick, debris and excess scaffold planking," said Brenda Gordon of OSHA, which is proposing fines totaling over $300,000 against Diversified Contracting, Inc. of Braintree, G.W. Construction Co. of Brighton, and Metropolitan Scaffold Services, Inc. of Mendon.
Diversified and G.W. were cited for four alleged "willful" violations, defined by OSHA as "one committed with an intentional disregard of, or plain indifference" to OSHA regulations.
The violations included: "loading a tubular welded frame scaffold beyond its manufacturer’s rated capacity; directing the alternation of the scaffold by untrained and inexperienced employees who were not under the guidance of a competent person; allowing brick and mortar from demolition work to accumulate on the scaffold platform, and failing to train employees working on the scaffold . . . "
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Metropolitan was cited for two alleged "serious violations," defined as "one in which there is substantial probability that death or serious physical harm could result, and the employer knew or should have known of the hazard."
Those violations included "failing to ensure that the . . . scaffold was supported on level and sufficiently rigid footings to keep the structure from settling; and erecting a . . . scaffold 19 frames high with cross bracing missing from a base section."
"(Our investigation) revealed that Diversified Contracting and G.W. Construction had sufficient knowledge and experience to have taken the necessary safety precautions . . . yet chose not to do so," Gordon said.
The families of the victims have filed wrongful-death civil suits against the contractors in Suffolk Superior Court. Lawyers for the families are expected to use the OSHA findings to buttress their cases.
The McGettigan and Stewart suits were recently consolidated for the purposes of further discovery and motions.
Shane McGettigan, the only son of award-winning composer Charlie McGettigan, had come to Boston on July 20 to work and play in the local GAA league. A student at Dublin City University, he was also a talented member of the Allen Gaels GAA Club in County Leitrim.
Ronan Stewart had just served three years as a private in the Irish Army before arriving in Boston in mid-summer
OSHA is urging employees with concerns about safety conditions at worksites to contact the national hotline at 1 (800) 321-OSHA.