Thursday, February 22, 2018
Public safety

OSHA calls for fines in fatal elevator accident at Tradewinds Resort

ST. PETE BEACH — Two local companies face more than $80,000 in fines because of an unusual and rare fatal elevator accident at the Tradewinds Island Resort this year.

Federal investigators with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration say both the hotel and SWS Environmental should be penalized for serious safety violations in the April 24 incident that involved Mark Allen Johnson, who was crushed to death when an elevator fell on him.

Johnson, 45, of Tampa, was an employee of SWS, which had been subcontracted to clean out the bottom of an elevator shaft at the resort's Jacaranda Beach Villas, 5600 Gulf Blvd. He was working for about 40 minutes when the elevator fell from the second floor. A second worker who was outside the shaft was not injured.

Days after the incident, fire department authorities who tried to rescue Johnson said they immediately noticed an important safety step had been missed. No one that day ensured main power to the elevator was completely off, a process referred to as "lockout/tagout."

OSHA investigators said it is the responsibility of Tradewinds and SWS to ensure safety procedures are known and followed.

The agency has proposed Tradewinds pay $23,000. It wants SWS to pay $61,000 — a figure that's higher because SWS has been cited for safety violations before.

Keith Overton, the resort's president, called the incident a tragedy and said hotel officials still aren't sure exactly what happened.

"We're working with the OSHA inspector to make sure that everything has been remedied where there are shortcomings," he said.

Johnson was not a certified elevator technician, and according to federal investigators, Tradewinds and SWS did not coordinate to make sure lockout/tagout took place.

Overton said the hotel did have written procedures for lockout/tagout, but not for each specific elevator. The hotel corrected that, he said.

"We're going to work with (OSHA) and pay the fines," Overton said. "Beyond that there's really nothing more to it."

SWS declined to comment.

The companies have until Thursday to contest the fines, which could be lowered after the different sides meet.

Johnson's family could not be reached for comment.

Kameel Stanley can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 893-8643. Follow @cornandpotatoes on Twitter.

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