announced Wednesday that three groups will be fined a total of $80,800 for
workplace violations that could have contributed to the Indiana State Fair stage collapse
stage collapseon Aug. 13 that resulted in seven fatalities.
A 175-day investigation by the Indiana Occupational Safety and Health Administration
Occupational Safety and Health Administrationfound the Indiana State Fair
Commission, a union representing stagehands, and Mid-America Sound Corporation
in violation of safety and health standards.
Mid-America, the company that made the
load-bearing roof that collapsed, received the largest penalty at $63,000.
But company officials said later that
they warned the Indiana State Fair Commission that the roof should not be used
if wind speed reached 25 mph. Also, Mid-America said one of its employees
warned the commission and Sugarland management to evacuate.
"On the evening of the incident
one of our employees reconfirmed with state fair leadership that if there was
lightening or wind speeds of 40 mph or more, the area should be evacuated,"
said Myra Borshoff Cook, a spokeswoman for
"Despite these warnings, the
Indiana State Fair Commission, who controlled the venue, and Sugarland, who
controlled the concert, refused to postpone the concert and failed to implement
an evacuation plan away from the temporary roof structure," she said.
Mid-America officials said they will contest the fines which the state imposed for multiple
violations. Among them: a failure to consider the soil of the fairgrounds when
constructing the roof and not using up-to-date engineering documents and
State officials did not blame any of
the organizations for the fatalities, but they said all are accountable for
safety violations that might have contributed to the incident.
"Despite the heroism that we
witnessed by many Hoosiers, Aug. 13, 2011, was a tragic day," Indiana
Department of Labor Commissioner Lori Torres said. "My hope is that today
represents at least a partial step towards closure for
all of those that were affected."
The state issued the second largest
penalty to Local 30 of the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage
Employees, a union that IOSHA determined was the employer of a stagehand and a
security guard who were killed by the collapse.
Local 30 Business Representative John
Baldwin said, "IOSHA's contention that Local 30
was acting as an 'employer' is nothing short of absurd."
He said the union's contract repeatedly
refers to the union members as employees of the fairgrounds.
IOSHA officials acknowledged the agency
has never made a case against a union for safety and health standards before.
But the agency found employment tax forms that documented the union as working
as an employer.
"The union provided the
supervision, the discipline, the training, and had the authority to discharge
workers. The union selected the various personnel sent to various venues,"
IOSHA found that the union failed to
provide fall protection equipment and training to the workers, among other
violations. The union is also challenging IOSHA's
The appeals go to the Board of Safety
Review and can then be challenged in court, Torres said.
The Indiana State Fair Commission owes
$6,300 for its IOSHA violations, which include failure to assess safety
measures on the fairgrounds. The commission released a statement following the
"Though the IOSHA report focuses
on employee safety standards, the commission initiated a review of all of its
operational safety policies and practices several months ago," said
Indiana State Fair Commission Chairman Andre Lacy in a media release.
According to IOSHA Deputy Commissioner
Jeff Carter, one problem in the stage collapse was that no one person had the
authority to cancel the show in an instant. Every group involved had a
"I think that is part of the
problem, when it comes to these concerts," Carter said. "It was quite
a learning experience. There's an awful lot of people
that seem to be in charge up there."
The state fair has been working to
improve its safety measures since the incident.
"We have created a new
emergency-management-officer position to assist with improving emergency action
plans, and completed emergency evacuation training for all employees,"
Lawmakers are also considering an
appropriate response to the state fair mishap.
The Indiana General Assembly is moving
a bill that would establish standards for the installation and inspection of
outdoor stages and create a permitting process to determine the safety and
functionality of the structures.
Cox is a reporter for TheStatehouseFile.com, a news website powered by Franklin
College journalism students.