News | January 14, 2000

OSHA Fines Contractors $500,000 in Crane Collapse at Ballpark

A place that would have been filled this April with the sound of crowds cheering home runs and vendors selling popcorn and hotdogs was filled with the sounds of metal and men screaming on July 14. The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has finished its investigation and issued penalties totaling $500,000 to three contractors building Miller Stadium, the new home of the Milwaukee Brewers.

On that day in July, Big Blue, the Lampson Transi-Lift 1500 Series crane—the largest crane in the U.S. and the third-tallest structure in Milwaukee—broke in half as it lifted a 400-ton section of the stadium's retractable roof into place. Part of the crane, which was 467 feet tall and weighed 2,100 tons, crashed into the stadium. Three workers were killed and another five injured.

OSHA alleges that the contractors allowed workers to lift a 400-ton roof section that was too heavy for the crane, especially in the windy conditions that existed at the site that day. All were issued willful citations for what OSHA claims are their roles in the tragedy.

Danny's Construction Co., which employed the ironworkers on the project, was issued a willful citation for failing to keep its workers clear of the suspended section of the roof. The company was also issued cited for operating the crane in high winds and for using a platform on the work site when a hoist, ladders or other scaffolding was possible and was fined a total of $168,000.

Neil F. Lampson Inc., which owned Big Blue and leased the crane to Mitsubishi Heavy Industries of America, was fined $131,300 and issued a willful citation for allegedly overloading the crane. The company was also cited for not keeping the area of the crane clear during the lift and because charts on when to use the crane did not take the effects of wind on the load into account.

Mitsubishi, which was constructing the roof, was fined $240,500 and issued a willful violation for allegedly overloading the crane and was cited for failing to factor in wind conditions. Reports on the day of the accident had the wind gusting at 26 m.p.h.

"We feel that if these companies had been in compliance with our regulations, possibly this tragedy would not have occurred," OSHA area director George Yoksas said. He would not say what OSHA thought caused the crane's collapse, but said that failure to take the effect of the wind into account "was a significant factor."

OSHA compliance officers were on site the day of the crane collapse, following up on a report of an earlier accident. They were videotaping as the crane collapsed and the 78-second tape was used in the OSHA investigation of the accident. The video they shot was released Wednesday, and captured the entire collapse of the crane, starting with a grinding screech that lasted several seconds that was followed by shouts from employees and two loud crashes.

All three companies say they plan to appeal the fines. Bill Lampson, president of Neil F. Lampson Inc., called the citations "absolutely inappropriate," adding that his company leased the crane to Mitsubishi and should not be cited.

Mitsubishi's attorney, Franklyn Gimbel, said he plans to request an informal conference with OSHA officials in an attempt to erase or modify the citations. Willie Mizell, president of Danny's Construction, also denies culpability in the accident and said his company plans to proceed "through the established channels" to contest the allegations and fine.

The Milwaukee County District Attorney's office is reportedly looking into the possibility of filing criminal charges in the incident.

The accident caused $100 million in damages to the stadium and delayed its opening by a year, to April 2001.