Minnesota Demolition Company Fined for Ballpark Worker’s Death

April 7, 2014

Minnesota Occupational Safety and Health is fining a company nearly $52,000 for violations following an accident that killed a demolition worker on a new St. Paul Saints ballpark.

Johnny Valek, 61, of Plymouth, was killed in September when a concrete section collapsed on the cab of his backhoe. It was part of a building being torn down to make way for the new park.

Minnesota OSHA found three serious violations, and levied a $51,650 fine against the company the man worked for, Rachel Contracting Inc., which is based in St. Michael, Minn., the Pioneer Press reported.

According to the federal OSHA website, the company contested the citations last month. A company representative didn’t immediately return a call for comment Wednesday afternoon.

Ryan Cos. is leading construction of the ballpark, and Rachel Contracting is the subcontractor where Valek worked. OSHA did not find violations involving Ryan Cos. and closed its investigation in February, according to the records on the federal site.

St. Paul firefighters were called Sept. 10 about “a building collapse with a person crushed under a large slab of concrete and trapped inside cab of excavating equipment,” according to a fire department report. A fire department spokesman at the time said a concrete slab about 10 feet by 30 feet fell from the two-story building onto the cab of Valek’s backhoe.

At the time, the family put out a statement describing Valek as a loving father preparing for retirement. “While he looked forward to retirement, those feelings paled in comparison to the excitement he held for his daughter’s upcoming wedding. It is that devotion that we will miss most.”

OSHA issued three citations to Rachel Contracting in February. According to the federal OSHA site, they involved a preparatory engineering survey, removal of walls, masonry sections and chimneys and continuing inspections during demolition.

Minnesota OSHA investigates all work-related fatalities in the state. When a company contests a citation, OSHA may negotiate a settlement that is less than the penalty it initially levied, the state OSHA website says.

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