Saturday, May 25, 2013


Whiting-Turner, the construction company in charge of the Westfield Montgomery Mall project where a garage collapse killed one, and injured another Thursday, has been cited for safety violations in other DC-area incidents.

It's important to note upfront that, given the company's size, portfolio, and work with many partners, it would be unrealistic for the company to have an accident-free record. And, based on my investigation so far, there is nothing that suggests Whiting-Turner has an unusually high number of violations relative to its competitors.

Having said that, there are a number of incidents where workers have been injured or killed.  And a Cleveland garage collapse eerily reminiscent of Thursday's.

In March 2011, Roxana Zelaya, a 37-year-old forklift operator working for a Whiting-Turner subcontractor, was killed after being pinned by scaffolding at an underground construction site at Georgetown University, in Washington.

Whiting-Turner was cited by OSHA for violations during the construction of towers at Washington Hospital Center, also in the District.

In October 2002, a Whiting-Turner employee was fatally electrocuted during the expansion project at BWI Airport. Three years later at BWI, Whiting-Turner was cited three times by the Maryland Occupational Safety and Health Unit. This after a worker on an elevated roadway bridge project fell through a gap, and was "seriously injured" upon landing on the road below.

An incident in Cleveland, Ohio sounds awfully similar to what happened at the Bethesda mall Thursday.

On December 16, 2011, during construction of a Whiting-Turner project called Horseshoe Casino, a section of the second level of a parking garage deck suddenly collapsed. Fortunately, no workers were injured.

Was Thursday's work by Whiting-Turner, or its subcontractor(s)?

It could affect the company either way.

Sometimes contracts hold the contractor responsible for incidents caused by its subcontractors.

And Tim Sullivan of the New England Regional Council of Carpenters told his union's blog in August 2010 that "we have noticed a pattern of problems with subcontractors hired by Whiting-Turner."

Now, unions clash with employers all the time, so don't necessarily jump to conclusions from that.

But little information is being put out to the public right now (and that's somewhat understandable, as there will surely be civil, if not criminal lawsuits ahead for responsible parties in the mall incident).

So it's worth at least reviewing what other incidents the company has been involved in around the DC area.


Anonymous said...

"And, based on my investigation so far, there is nothing that suggests Whiting-Turner has an unusually high number of violations relative to its competitors."

Ha. But let's speculate anyway!

Robert Dyer said...

Ha. There's no speculation in the article, just a list of incidents and citations. Government records. Government actions. "Ha," indeed.

Paula Bienenfeld said...

Thanks, you are the only one reporting on who could be responsible for this fatality. Greatly appreciated. What about the county's responsibility for oversight and permitting? Any luck on that end? And, which companies did Whiting subcontract to, do you know?

Robert Dyer said...

That information is exclusive to DPS. I have been unable to get any info out of the DPS search engine. I remember it could not generate the permits for the Apple Store renovations last year, either. Other times, it will show permits for a project with no difficulty. I don't know why results vary with that search engine, but that's been my experience.

Anonymous said...

Perhaps information has not been released because WT needs to conduct its own internal investigation as well. These types of investigations do not produce overnight results. And, the company's original priority was sending out a team of engineers to assist in rescue efforts. After that, there were certainly other responsibilities to deal with as well. You might not have directly speculated, but there certainly is a sense of bias in your writing...

Robert Dyer said...

Show me the bias. Where is it? Give me some quotes that show bias. The article isn't even about the Montgomery Mall incident, but about other incidents the firm was involved in that are public record. The embarrassing part is that the local media swept this story under the rug.