State, House Labor Committees to Hold Hearings on Fines for Fatal Tower Collapse

    Hawaii Capitol
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    Hawaii Capitol

    HONOLULU – The Hawaii State Senate Committee on Labor and the House of Representatives Committee on Labor & Public Employment have scheduled a joint informational briefing to explore questions that have arisen over the Hawaii Department of Labor & Industrial Relations (DLIR) Hawaii Occupational Safety & Health Division’s (HIOSH) investigation into the death of a worker in the collapse of a Hawaiian Cement tower at Campbell Industrial Park in May, 2009.

    The informational briefing is scheduled for Monday, June 7 at 10 a.m. in State Capitol Room 329.


    HIOSH issued $750 fines each to AG Transport, a contractor hired to demolish the tower, and the general contractor Sans Construction of Hawaii, for violating safety rules.

    In a letter to DLIR director Darwin Ching dated May 11, Senate Labor chair Dwight Takamine and House Labor & Public Employment chair Karl Rhoads said, “Such fines appear rather small, considering that statutorily you have the authority to fine up to $7,000. Moreover, we are concerned that these small fines will fail to act as a deterrent to others that endanger worker safety.”

    “We want some clarity on how the DLIR and its director determined the fine,” said Sen. Takamine. “The companies failed to provide a required, written engineering survey of the tower that they were supposed to have before starting work. The result was a fatal accident. How does this warrant a $750 fine?”

    “One purpose of the statutory fine is to encourage contractors to follow the safety rules,” said Rep. Rhoads. “A small fine is not a deterrent, particularly when you consider that their failure to follow the established safety standards apparently led to exactly the kind of accident the standards are intended to protect against.”

    “DLIR, HIOSH and Director Darwin Ching may have their reasons for imposing a fine far below the maximum allowed by law,” Senator Takamine concluded, “but their reasoning is not clear to us. We think they should explain their decision, for the sake of Hawaii’s workers, for the man who lost his life, and for his family.”

    Killed in the May 2009 collapse was Juan Navarro of California, who was preparing the 168-foot tower for demolition at the time of the collapse. He was an employee of AG Transport.

    Richard Rapoza, the Director Of Communications of the Hawaii State Senate, issued this report