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Builder in Indiana stage collapse cited with safety violations


INDIANAPOLIS—The Indiana Department of Labor has cited the company that built the stage that collapsed during a storm at last summer's Indiana State Fair with three workplace safety violations in connection with the collapse.

The August stage collapse before a performance by Sugarland killed seven and left 58 injured.

The state agency fined Greenfield, Ind.-based Mid-America Sound Corp. $63,000 for the three violations which included not developing a risk assessment plan and making workers aware of the hazards related to the construction of the stage; not providing cross-bracing of the stage's roof structure as recommended by the manufacturer; and not taking into full consideration the weights of equipment associated with the structure.

The violations by Mid-America Sound were “knowing violations,” which Lori A. Torres, commissioner of the Indiana Department of Labor, said in a statement “indicates the most serious safety violation,” as evidence indicated the company “was aware of the appropriate requirements and demonstrated a plain indifference to complying with those requirements.”

In an email, a spokeswoman for Mid-America Sound disputed the Indiana agency's findings and the “knowing violations” classification.

“Mid-America Sound was consistent and clear with the Indiana State Fair Commission about the limitations of the temporary roof structure in high winds or severe inclement weather,” the spokeswoman said. “Each year for nearly a decade, we warned the commission, in writing, that 'The roof or top shall not be used in high winds and/or severe inclement weather.'”

The spokeswoman said that on the evening of the stage collapse, one of the company's employees reiterated to state fair officials that the stage area should be evacuated in the event of lightning or winds greater than 40 mph.

The Indiana agency also cited the Indiana State Fair Commission and Local 30 of the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees for lesser violations.

The commission was fined $6,300 for a “serious violation” for failure to conduct a life safety evaluation that included an assessment of all conditions and the related appropriate safety measures of the Indiana State Fairgrounds concert venues at the 2011 fair.

The union faces a total of $11,500 in fines for three “serious violations” and one “non-serious violation” including failure to consider soil conditions when placing cable anchor points for the grandstand stage, failure to provide appropriate fall protection for employees working four feet or more above the ground, and failure to conduct a personal protective equipment hazard assessment of the worksite.

Each of the organizations cited has 15 days from Wednesday's issuance of the safety orders to pay or contest the penalties.

The investigation by the Indiana Occupational Safety & Health Administration focused on workplace safety issues rather than the cause of the stage collapse. Indiana officials have hired two outside firms to review engineering issues surrounding the stage collapse, and the state's emergency plans and response to the collapse.

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