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Tempe Apartment Developer Hit with Multiple Worker-Safety Fines

TEMPE, AZ — A high-rise apartment complex on the banks of Tempe Town Lake is facing multiple worker-safety fines after a state inspection. An inspection earlier this year at a development called The Pier found holes in floors that were unguarded and unmarked, employees working above 20 feet without protection from falls and workers exposed to trip and fall hazards.

The May 26 inspection by the Arizona Division of Occupational Safety and Health (ADOSH) also stated workers were exposed to health hazards because of “multiple bottles filled with urine” on the job site.

“The general contractor is in charge of the site. The general contractor should be making rounds to ensure all the hazards are controlled,” said ADOSH Director Mark Norton.

The Industrial Commission of Arizona, the state agency that oversees worker safety, voted to fine the general contractor, Springbrook SGC, $40,177, at a recent meeting.

It’s one of the largest worker-safety fines levied against a small Arizona company this year, according to an ABC15 review of safety fines issued so far. ADOSH classified two of the violations as “repeat,” meaning inspectors found similar violations in 2022. ADOSH also fined three subcontractors hired by Springbrook.

Developer Rob Fransway, who owns Springbrook, spoke to ADOSH officials and members of the Industrial Commission at a recent meeting while they were discussing the fines. He disputed some of the violations and said other issues were corrected immediately. Fransway, who has been in business 30 years, told ABC15 he plans to contest the citations.

“In all my years of building – I’ve built 6,000 units – this has been a really hard project,” he said at the meeting.

He said he’s struggled at times to get enough qualified workers. He’s also dealt with delays in getting equipment.

“It just seems like we’re just fighting everybody to get this thing done,” he said. “And It’s a beautiful project.”

The construction site, east of Rural Road and north of Rio Salado Parkway, will eventually be home to hundreds of people. More than 500 apartments are planned in the two, 24-story towers on the south side of Tempe Town Lake. It’s part of a building boom of offices, condos and businesses along the lake.

“Is there room for improvement? Yes. Is this the worst possible time for an inspection? Yes,” Fransway said.

Norton, the ADOSH director, said most business owners would say it’s never a good time for an inspection. He showed a series of color photos to members of the Industrial Commission, showing what the inspection found. The photos and descriptions said there were protruding nails where employees could step on them. An employee used tools to hang air conditioning and heating equipment without eye protection and gloves, according to the inspection.

“There are plenty of job sites in the Valley that I’ve had experience with over my 40-year career that demonstrate a level of safety and quality on a job site that surpasses what we see in those photos,” Norton told the Industrial Commission.

He said the worker safety inspections were prompted by concerns from the Tempe Fire Department, which conducts periodic inspections of construction sites.

Tempe Fire officials told ABC15 they have filed three complaints with ADOSH involving the work site since March 2018. On May 23, they said they came close to issuing a stop-work order, which would have shut down construction. Their concerns included holes in floors and workers not using fall protection. Tempe Fire officials said they have responded to three medical calls at the site; two were unrelated to construction. They declined to release specifics, citing patient privacy.

Norton told the Industrial Commission that a worker fell through a floor in April 2021. But Fransway disputed the characterization of that, saying a worker who was new to the site was in an area with danger tape up. He found a soft spot in the floor and bounced up as hard as he could three times, Fransway said. On the fourth bounce, he fell through the floor, he said.

Source: ABC Arizona