Construction companies cited for safety violation in death of worker at UK dorm

lblackford@herald-leader.comJune 24, 2014 

State officials have cited two private construction companies for a "serious" violation of safety laws in the February death of a worker at their University of Kentucky construction site.

Messer Construction Co. spokeswoman Jessie Folmar said company officials would meet with state representatives in an informal conference before deciding whether to appeal the citation and proposed penalties against Messer and its subcontractor, Joseph W. Bates Construction.

Isaias Cabrera Ramos, 24, of North Carolina was killed Feb. 19 when a piece of plywood blew off the roof of Haggin Hall on Huguelet Drive in 30 mph winds and fell 60 feet, striking Ramos in the head.

Ramos was wearing a hard hat but died of traumatic head injury. The state's Office of Occupational Safety and Health cited Messer Construction and Bates Construction for not conducting an adequate hazard assessment of the work and weather conditions, a penalty that is classified as "serious."

"Employees were unprotected from the force of the wind and the hazard of falling objects," according to the citation.

State officials proposed a $6,300 penalty for Messer Construction and a $4,900 penalty for Bates Construction.

"Safety is the top priority at Messer Construction Co., so we take any such notice very seriously," Folmar said in an email message.

The company, based in Cincinnati, is working for Memphis-based Education Realty Trust as part of a $500 million public-private partnership to build new residence halls on UK's campus. Under the deal, Education Realty Trust will build the dorms, then operate them under a long-term lease with UK.

Messer and all other contractors are hired directly by Education Realty Trust.

The new Haggin Hall is scheduled to open this fall. UK's first new dorms built under the partnership, Central I and II, are next door to Haggin and opened last fall.

Education Realty Trust officials did not respond to a request for comment. UK spokesman Jay Blanton also declined to comment.

Linda Blackford: (859) 231-1359.

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