Construction Worker Killed in Gillette Factory Collapse

Posted on 09/10/2013Back

Demolition Dangers – Gillette Factory Collapse

This morning, a construction worker doing demolition work at the future site of the St. Paul Saints’ new ballpark was tragically killed after a part of the building suddenly collapsed. Since early July, construction workers have been slowly demolishing the old Gillette Factory to make way for the new ballpark. The Gillette Factory collapse occurred around 8:00 AM, and the process of removing the body from the wreckage lasted into the afternoon.

The worker, later identified as Johnny Valec of Plymouth, MN, was operating a backhoe when part of the building collapsed on top of him.

Ryan Companies, the general contractor of the new ballpark, hired Rachel Contracting of St. Michael, MN, to demolish the two-story Gilette Factory. Interior demolition began in early July.2 Rachel Contracting was established in 2006 and has completed other demolition projects in the Twin Cities such as the former 3M campus and Brookdale Mall.3

Construction is a dangerous trade, especially when older buildings are involved. In this case, the project involved the demolition of a 1960’s-era factory, which had been vacant since 2005 and was very run-down.1According to Ryan Companies superintendent Bob Curley when interviewed before the demolition began, a wrecking ball likely would just “glance off the building’s concrete shell.” Most of the demolition was done with backhoes such as the one Valec was using at the time of the Gillette Factory collapse. The hands-on nature of the job meant even more risk for workers.

Randy Valek, brother of John Valek, told the Star Tribune that John had more than 25 years of experience in construction, and he had recently expressed what a tough job this particular demolition was.

Because demolition is such a dangerous job, safety measures are very important. It is not yet clear if any safety measures were violated. For now, the site has been shut down as Health Administration and OSHA continue to investigate the details of the Gillette Factory collapse. Investigators with Minnesota OSHA are investigating whether any existing OSHA standards were violated, according to a spokesman for the safety agency. Rachel Contracting was inspected once by Minnesota OSHA in July 2010, and no citations were issued. 3

According to, cave-ins pose the greatest risk and are much more likely than other accidents to result in fatalities. For that reason, there are requirements in place specifically to prevent cave-ins. Requirements can involve sloping or benching the sides of excavation, supporting the sides of the excavation, or placing a shield between the work area and the excavation. The standard also requires support systems such as shoring, bracing, or underpinning to maintain stability. There are many more regulations that you can find here.

Many of the safety measures outlined by OSHA are circumstantial. That is, they may not be relevant to all excavation jobs but are crucial in certain situations. Those measures are often the ones that are overlooked and end up causing catastrophes.

Gillette Factory Collapse

Photo taken from Star Tribune

Structural Collapse Attorneys

Whether a building collapse is attributed to noncompliance with inspections, safety regulations, unsafe demolition practices, or other factors, our structural collapse attorneys put forth extensive effort and resources when investigating structural failures. It is often necessary to hire specialized engineering experts who can analyze the cause of the building collapse and possible prevention scenarios.

Structural collapses often severely injure or kill innocent, hardworking people and can have a huge impact on our community. Our experience in structural collapse includes one of the most catastrophic incidents in Minnesota – the 35W Bridge collapse in August 2007. The collapse took the lives of 13 people and injured hundreds. Our structural collapse attorneys successfully handled one wrongful death claim and two catastrophic injury claims resulting from the bridge collapse. If you believe you or a loved one could have a claim relating to a structural collapse, contact our attorneys for a free consultation. We have been representing victims of negligence for over 29 years and can help you.



1Star Tribune 2010

2Star Tribune – July 12 2013

3Star Tribune – September 10 2013

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