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Construction Safety & Contractors responsibility-News It

 
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hari.kumar at undp.org
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PostPosted: Wed Nov 24, 2004 7:04 am    Post subject: Construction Safety & Contractors responsibility-News It Reply with quote

Builder arrested in fatal Hobe Sound building collapse

By Peter Franceschina
Staff Writer (Sun Sentinel-Florida)
Posted November 24 2004

The owner of a Boca Raton construction company involved in a Hobe
Sound building collapse that killed two workers was charged Tuesday with a
single felony for failing to carry workers' compensation insurance for his
employees.

Richard J. Meccariello Jr., 39, of Delray Beach was being held Tuesday
in the Palm Beach County Jail on $25,000 bond. His arrest comes three months
after the state fined two of his companies $2.4 million in civil penalties
for not carrying the coverage.

State and federal investigations were launched after the July 22
collapse of a three-story condominium, which also injured five other of
Meccariello's employees. Martin County buildings officials have found in
their preliminary review that concrete for the third floor was too heavy and
being poured too fast.

State officials say Meccariello is the owner of two Boca Raton-based
companies, Macs Construction & Concrete Inc. and Macs Custom Construction
Inc., which were contracted for the Tranquility condominium project.

State regulators shut down both companies after the collapse for
workers' compensation violations, and Meccariello was fired from the
project. State law requires that construction companies with more than one
employee carry the insurance. Investigators found that the two workers who
were killed and the five that were injured were not covered, according to
Meccariello's arrest report.

"Bottom line is, he was working and doing construction at the
Tranquility condominium complex and he did not have a workers' compensation
policy in force for the employees he was paying," said Jeff Korte, bureau
chief for workers' compensation fraud at the Florida Department of Financial
Services.

Without coverage, there were no medical or death benefits for the
victims or their families. Funds were established to help the victims.

Gregorio Ruiz Aviles, 31, and Lauro Marquez Hernandez, 23, both
Mexican nationals were killed in the collapse. Both men were married.
Marquez Hernandez had a 4-year-old daughter; Ruiz Aviles had two girls, aged
5 and 7.

Records from the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration
show Macs Construction & Concrete had been fined $28,300 for safety
violations at other job sites in Florida. OSHA is still investigating the
cause of the collapse.

The criminal charge is a third-degree felony punishable by up to five
years in prison. The criminal case will be heard in Martin County, where the
building collapsed.

Korte said 30 contractors around the state were charged criminally
between July 2003 and July 2004 with not providing workers' compensation for
their employees. He said since hurricanes Frances and Jeanne, a dozen
contractors have been arrested on the Treasure Coast on the same charge.

"We take a squad out and go to an area where there is construction
going on and check everybody," he said. "We have been stepping up the
enforcement."

Florida's chief financial officer, Tom Gallagher, said in a statement
that the Department of Financial Services will hold contractors who fail to
insure their employees accountable.

"When workers show up to perform a job, they deserve to be protected
in case they get injured. This terrible accident is a perfect example of why
workers' compensation is so important," Gallagher said.

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