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June 23rd, 2013

Lessons from a New Jersey Construction Collapse Case – Tropicana Garage Collapse

In October 2003, four workers were killed and dozens more injured in a construction collapse accident. This collapse occurred on the worksite of the Tropicana Casino and Resort in Atlantic City, New Jersey. A ten-story parking garage collapsed, and the tragic fact is that the accident was preventable. Most building collapse situations are preventable and occur due to any number of reasons – negligence, neglect, inexperience, etc.

OSHA is the arm of the federal government tasked with workplace and construction site safety. In all fatal work accident cases, OSHA conducts an investigation. In some cases, OSHA issues willful citations when an employer showed intentional disregard of OSHA safety regulations and requirements. Serious citations are issued when the employer knew or should have known that there was a substantial likelihood of death or serious injury. In most work accident cases, OSHA issues at least one “serious citation;” it is more rare to see a “willful citation.”

As a result of this building collapse investigation, OSHA issued 9 citations, 1 of which was a willful violation. The image below shows the nature of each of the citations and fine amount.

Tropicana construction collapse violations

The most serious violation was issued for formwork which was not erected, supported, braced or otherwise maintained and therefore not capable of supporting all loads without failure. The contractor was fined $70,000 for the violation. Other violations included failing to properly install and inspect reinforcing steel and failing to inspect and test shoring.

The reality is that building collapse situations are preventable. Whether due to inexperience, neglect or intentional failure to follow OSHA regulations, construction accidents often result in injury. Hopefully, this tragic collapse accident can provide some guidance in future construction cases.


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