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Texas firm cited in worker's death on Oklahoma City construction site

The U.S. Department of Labor fined a Texas company more than $12,000 this month after a construction worker fell to his death at an Oklahoma City construction site last year, documents show.

The department's Occupational Safety and Health Administration concluded after a six-month investigation that Baker Concrete Construction, of Houston, failed to ensure the work site was "free from recognized hazards" that were likely to cause death or serious physical harm.

Alex Baiza, 33, fell to his death from the 14th floor of the BOK Park Plaza Tower in September.

Investigators concluded that the contractor allowed workers to use a self-propelled lift near the open edge of the 14th floor of the building, exposing employees to falls from great heights — a serious violation, according to a citation issued to the company earlier this month and obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request.

In the citation, investigators wrote that the company was out of compliance with accepted industry safety standards, as well as the company's own fall protection safety policy. The citation carries a fine of $12,675.

Officials with Baker Concrete Construction didn't return calls for comment.

The company is a concrete subcontractor working for JE Dunn Construction, the project's general contractor.

Baiza, a native of Honduras, was a part of a concrete crew working on the 27-story building under construction at 499 W Sheridan Ave. After the incident, co-workers told police that Baiza had unloaded a pile of wooden framework from a scissor lift, a platform used to move workers vertically, before going back up for another load.

A witness told police that Baiza may have thought he had shifted the machine from the mode that moves it forward and backward to the mode that moves the platform up and down. As he tried to raise the lift, the machine instead lurched forward toward the building's eastern side.

As the lift rolled over the edge, Baiza grabbed onto some wiring and tried to pull himself free. But he was attached to the lift by a cable. A horrified co-worker tried to help Baiza but couldn't reach him before he plunged to the ground. Another co-worker on the ground heard shouts and looked up just in time to see Baiza plummet 14 stories to his death.

The workplace safety agency has inspected the concrete company eight other times since 2015, including twice since the fall that killed Baiza, records show.

Once complete, the tower is set to become the sixth-tallest building in the city with a height of 430 feet and 700,000 square feet of floor space. The building is expected to be complete early next year.

Silas Allen

Silas Allen is a news reporter for The Oklahoman. He is a Missouri native and a 2008 graduate of the University of Missouri. Read more ›

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