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Labor department issues citations, fines in fatal wall collapse

Emergency workers respond to a wall collapse that killed one worker and injured three others. Emergency workers respond to a wall collapse that killed one worker and injured three others.

The state Department of Labor fined a Mills River masonry contractor and the company it was working for, Hajoca Corp., $30,800 each for the construction accident that killed one worker and seriously injured two others, the department said Tuesday.

After six-month investigation and its occupational safety and health inspection that began after the fatality and injuries on Jan. 13, the department issued citations to Robert Crawford Masonry, Hajoca Corp. and Pinnacle Grading Co. Inc. Pinnacle was cited for one serious violation and fined $2,800. Hajoca and Robert Crawford Masrony were each cited for one willful serious violation and one serious violation, drawing fines of $28,000 and $2,800 respectively.

The retaining wall collapse at Hajoca, at 1027 Spartanburg Highway, killed 37-year-old Marcelino Godofredo Rendon Hernandez. Injured were Bradley Colby and Robert Angel, according to a Hendersonville police incident report the Lightning obtained through a public records request.

Regulators cited Robert Crawford Masonry and Hajoca Corp. each with one alleged willful serious violation and one alleged serious violation of the Occupational Safety and Health Act of North Carolina with a total penalty each of $30,800. The Labor Department also cited Pinnacle Grading Co. Inc. with one alleged serious violation of the Occupational Safety and Health Act of North Carolina with a total penalty of $2,800.

Civil penalties for OSH violations are included in the Occupational Safety and Health Act of North Carolina in the General Statutes. The maximum penalty for each willful violation is $70,000 and for each serious violation is $7,000. The General Statutes say that the Labor Department has to take into consideration various factors such as the gravity of the violation, the size of the business, the good faith of the employer, and the history of previous violations.

The penalties are in no way designed to make up for loss of life, the department said in a news release. By law, the civil money penalties collected by the N.C. Department of Labor are not the receipts of the department but rather must be remitted to the Civil Penalty and Forfeiture Fund, which then distributes the monies to North Carolina public schools.

All three companies requested an informal conference as allowed under Labor Department rules to present "questions, problems, concerns, evidence and abatement verification," the department said. The conference can result in an amended citation, a "no change" letter or an informal settlement agreement that the employer has 15 days to review. Results of the informal conferences are not yet available, Dolores Quesenberry, the Labor Department's public information officer, said in response to the Lightning's questions.

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