...relied on historical data, rather than new tests, to determine if concrete had gained sufficient strength.

OSHA also cited both Fabi and Philadelphia-based Keating Building Corp., the project’s prime contractor, for failing to maintain the formwork for the eighth level so that it could support construction loads without failing. Site Blauvelt Engineers, Mt. Laurel, N.J., also failed to properly train employees for inspection responsibilities, claims OSHA.


All but one of the companies cited, Mitchell Bar Placement, which could not be reached for comment, have indicated they will contest the penalties. In a statement, Fabi says it "addressed all safety requirements, including constructing the garage in accordance with the approved plans and procedures." The accident’s cause must await completed demolition, the firm claims. Fabi has complained to a New Jersey Superior Court judge that critical evidence is being destroyed during demolition.

Keating says there was nothing in OSHA’s findings or in its own research "that point in any way to a direct and clear-cut cause of this tragedy. There are no simple answers here." Site Blauvelt Engineers believes "the citations are unfounded and we will contest those very aggressively," says Daniel Sell, vice president for human resources.

OSHA’s modest findings leave the door open to interpretation. One outside engineer describes some of the alleged violations, such as the lack of a shoring plan, as being "bad." But he also complains that OSHA’s investigations are performed on a shoestring and fall short of being authoritative yet OSHA’s findings often determine public perceptions. The agency’s failure to identify a cause means it "didn’t know or didn’t do enough," he says.

Future legal battles may do more to cloud than clarify the picture of what occurred at the Tropicana. "The job is swarming with plaintiffs’ experts," says one person close to the project. "The OSHA investigation is about truth; everything else is about money."

Light Fines, Blunt Criticism: Tropicana Garage Violations   
  Violation Description Penalty
Fabi Construction Inc. Willful Formwork not erected, supported, braced and maintained so that it would be capable of support all vertical and lateral loads to the formwork. 70,000
  Serious Reinforcing steel was not properly installed to allow floors to be secured to columns and sheer wall. 7,000
  Serious Shoring plans were not available. 7,000
  Serious No inspections of shoring and re-shoring prior to and during concrete pour. 7,000
  Serious Shore heads not in form contact with foundations and forms. 5,000
  Serious Proper test not performed to determine if concrete gained sufficient strength. 2,500
Keating Building Construction Serious Formwork not erected, supported, braced and maintained. 7,000
Mitchell Bar Placement Serious Reinforcing steel and welded wire mesh not properly installed to allow floors to be secured to columns and sheer wall. 7,000
Site Blauvelt Engineers Serious Inspectors did not ensure that reinforcing steel was installed properly. 7,000
Source: OSHA, * may be contested by firm