Aug 12, 2002
On July 30, a painter fell 150 feet to his death in the Detroit Lions new football stadium. 42-year-old Gjon Gojcaj, the father of five children, was spray painting from a basket hoisted up by a hydraulic crane when a stabilizing outrigger collapsed, causing the rig to tip over.
This was hardly an “accident.” One of Gojcaj’s co-workers, Marcia Anderson said that both the crane that failed and another one used by painters at the site were old and rickety. On the day before the accident, the rig that failed wasn’t working because of a faulty hydraulic pump. The other rig wasn’t working the day the accident occurred. “They were junk,” Anderson said. Anderson herself had refused to go up on the rig on the day it failed, fearing it was unsafe.
Following Gojcaj’s death, the vice president for stadium development for Ford Field said, “We are very confident that this is a safe work environment.” But construction contractors at Ford Field have been repeatedly cited and fined by state inspectors for violations of health and safety regulations. Just the week before this “accident” happened, Thomarios Painting, the company Gojcaj worked for, had been fined $1,750 and issued two citations for failing to maintain safety procedures for painters. State inspectors charged the company with not providing proper safety lines and harnesses designed to prevent injury in case of a fall, and failure to keep work scaffolds up to code standards.
The contractors at the new stadium said they simply had no choice because they have been under pressure from stadium authorities to complete work there in time for the planned August 24 opening.
The new football stadium is clearly living up to it’s name – Ford Field. Officials claim everything is safe, just like they did at Ford’s giant Rouge complex in Dearborn, Michigan before the power house exploded, killing six workers. Yet even before it is completed, a worker has died because of speedup and lack of concern for safety.