Mar 18, 2002
On March 9, high winds blew a scaffold off the Hancock building. It broke up and fell 500 feet to the ground with the force of a freight car, killing three women in their cars below.
The scaffold was owned by Beeche, which leased it to AMS Architectural Technologies. AMS was in the middle of an 18-month project to clean and caulk the building.
These companies have both been responsible for deaths on other scaffolding projects. A worker for AMS fell to his death while working on a high rise in Los Angeles. The company was fined only $905. A Beeche Systems scaffold on the San Francisco Bay Bridge buckled in the middle, killing a worker two months ago. The company has been cited for 33 OSHA safety violations since 1989. They were fined a total of only $10,000 for all these violations, including the deaths.
City of Chicago regulations prohibit the use of scaffolds when winds are over 35 miles per hour, and state, “all scaffolds ... shall be so constructed as to insure the safety of persons working on, passing under or passing by.” After the accident, Mayor Daley said, “It isn’t the city’s problem, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, to keep tabs on people. This is the responsibility of the company.”
But what use then is the city ordinance if city inspectors don’t enforce it?
The small fines the companies received for other scaffold deaths shows that the system treats the death of people due to company negligence as a trifle. For the mayor of Chicago, as his comment demonstrates, the lives of these people are not even worth a trifle.