Thursday, February 9, 2012

Indiana OSHA Fines Three Entities

[Updated - 2014-03-31 - 12:50PM CDT]
February 8, 2012.  Following investigations into the stage canopy collapse at the Indiana State Fair on August 13th of last year, IOSHA has filed fines against the canopy provider Mid-America Sound Corporation, The IATSE Local 30 that provided labor to erect the stage, and the Indiana State Fair Commission, sponsors of the event.

The IOSHA order against Mid-America Sound claims that MAS knowingly allowed the stage to be erected without cross bracing and failed to provide adequate documentation for the erectors.  MAS said that they will challenge the findings and is already producing documents that they had previously withheld

UPDATE 2014-03-31:  Mid-America Sound has agreed to pay a $50,000 fine for safety violations and has also agreed to additional staff training and a new safety plan for future events..  Indiana’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (IOSHA) orginally levied a fine of $63,000 against the company.

Michael Moon, attorney for Mid-America Sound, released the following statement via Borshoff, the company’s PR firm:

“On March 20, 2014, Mid-America Sound Corporation and the Department of Labor entered into an Agreed Entry resolving litigation that resulted from IOSHA's citations issued to Mid-America following the events of August 13, 2011 at the Indiana State Fair.  While Mid-America contested the appropriateness of the citations and made no admission of any wrongdoing by entering into the settlement, Mid-America believed that it was important to move forward in a cooperative effort with IOSHA and to avoid the costs and expenses of further litigation.”

Of particular concern was that IOSHA fined the Labor Union Local 30, which is not an employer, and claimed that they were acting as an employer of the stage hands that were injured and killed.  This charge is being vigorously disputed by the Union as they say they were only act as an agent to arrange labor resources.  However, unlike almost all other union offices, this local's officers actually operated a business entity that directly paid the laborers that were contracted to the Indiana State Fair.  If this charge is upheld, it will have a significant impact on the way this Local, and possibly others, is operated.

The State Fair Commission's fines were minimal and they were charged with failing to have an effective emergency plan in-place.  The fines were minimal because the State Fair Commission did not have any employees that were significantly injured in the event.

A little perspective:

This is just the beginning of the legal process.  The report from the forensic engineering firm that is analyzing the failed structure has not yet been published, nor has any other official assessments of the event.  The IOSHA orders are only addressing one small segment of the incident:  The labor relationship between the Employers and the Workers with regard to their safety.  It is not IOSHA's place to address injuries to the general public or the over-all failure of the State Fair Commission that administered the event.  To date, there have been numerous law suits and over 100 tort claims filed that are seeking compensation for the damages and loss of life.

This blogger was told that Sugarland, the band that was to have played that night, had first right of refusal to not play (although they did not assert that right), and they did not have the right to override the State Fair Commission and demand to play.  Being willing to play is not the same thing as demanding to play.  This places the burden of responsibility back on the State Fair Commission for not cancelling the show and clearing the fairgrounds in a timely manner.  It's always a contentious position to be in when one state agency is penalizing another state agency.

Interviews with the Indiana State Police Troopers that were in the scene before the storm struck also said that they were fully expecting the Commissioners to cancel the show in light of the incoming weather front, and were dismayed when the announcer only said that the show would be delayed.  Had they known that the State Fair management team was not securing the site, they could, and probably would have overridden their decision and forced the issue for the sake of public safety.  Unfortunately, that announcement was made hours too late, and the brunt of the storm plowed through the area just moments later.

Additional Resources:

Indy Star article:

Prior Blog Posts:

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