Confined Space
News and Commentary on Workplace Health & Safety, Labor and Politics

Saturday, June 11, 2005


Company That Killed Worker Banned From Working For State

I wrote last January about the dismissal of manslaughter charges against Angelo D’Alessandro of Lanzo Construction for the 1999 death of Robert Whiteye who was buried in an unprotected 18 foot deep trench. Michigan OSHA had issued a willful citation to Lanzo and brought criminal charges against D'Alessandro.

At the time, Michigan Department of Consumer and Industry Services (CIS) Director Kathy Wilbur stated that “Lanzo Construction Company has shown a complete disregard for protecting their employees, as evidenced by their past history and the significant number of alleged wilful violations in this incident” and the MISOHA Newsletter reported that the investigation revealed that D’Alessandro "knew of the substantial risk of injury to employees engaged in trenching work, and failed to provide trenching support to prevent injury to their employees."

(A 2004 inspection of Lanzo, which had by then changed its name to D'Alessandro Construction, found that the company was continuing to expose workers to the same dangerous trenching conditions that killed Whiteye.)

Despite dismissal of the manslaughter charges against D'Alessandro, the judge found the company, Lanzo Construction, criminally responsible and put Lanzo "on probation," although no one seemed to know what it meant to put a company (as opposed to a person, on probation.)

Well, apparently it means you don't get to play the game anymore -- at least for the state of Michigan.
Gov. Jennifer Granholm has issued an executive order barring Lanzo Construction Co. from receiving any state contracts until 2013, after the company was found guilty of violating state rules and safety procedures in the 1999 construction site death of a worker.

"The state of Michigan and its corporate partners are held to high standards to protect our workers, citizens, environment and laws," Granholm said. "Those who don't play by the rules won't win state business."

***

Lanzo had received state contracts from the Michigan Department of Transportation in 1999, 2000 and 2001. The company has also performed extensive sewer construction work for numerous municipalities and other government agencies.

The 8-year ban, made possible by a 2003 policy initiated by the governor shortly after taking office, only applies to state contracts.

The Granholm administration rules allow companies to be banned from doing business with the state if they: are associated with a conviction on embezzlement, fraud or bribery charges; lose their state license; or are found guilty of violating state laws pertaining to worker safety, consumer protection, public health or environmental protection.
D'Alessandro says the ban is unjust because the company's conviction is still under appeal. Boo hoo.

The Granholm rules sound like a good idea that should be more widely adopted, especially as long as winning criminal convictions remains so difficult. We've seen a lot of companies working under government contracts who have killed their workers (here, here, here, here, and here for example). Maybe they shouldn't have the privilege of living off taxpayer dollars anymore.

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