At the scene

File photo by Michael Moore

Keene emergency personnel look over collapsed scaffolding at a hotel under construction on Key Road in Keene in February.

Two companies were fined by a federal agency this summer for workplace-safety violations related to a February scaffolding collapse during construction on a Keene hotel.

The Feb. 19 incident, which caused a worker to be hospitalized after he fell 20 to 30 feet, prompted an inquiry by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, the U.S. Department of Labor’s workplace-inspection branch.

The injured man was a 24-year-old Connecticut resident working for Union Power Stucco, Keene police reported at the time. He was transported to Cheshire Medical Center after telling police through an interpreter that he felt pain in his waist and legs, Sgt. Joel Chidester said Friday morning.

Union Power Stucco, a Connecticut-based construction contractor, was cited for nine violations and fined $35,276 as a result of the OSHA inquiry. Jazzlyn Hospitality II LLC, the Lexington, Mass., firm that owns the property, had an initial fine of $28,336 reduced to $8,000 after agreeing to address the hazards, according to OSHA spokesman Ted Fitzgerald.

Union Power Stucco is currently contesting its citations, Fitzgerald said.

The company was found in July to have violated OSHA standards related to fire prevention and protections, as well as numerous safety requirements for work involving scaffolding, according to a summary of the agency’s inspection. The company was cited for failing to comply with regulations on the maximum weight capacity, structural integrity and fall-protection measures for scaffolding, as well as a restriction on working on such structures during high winds. (The specific circumstances of each violation are not available in the inspection summary.)

Jazzlyn Hospitality II was fined $28,336 on Aug. 7 after OSHA determined it had violated several of the same scaffolding standards. OSHA eliminated the bulk of that penalty, however, after the company agreed to implement new safety measures at the Key Road site, according to its owner, Ashok Patel.

Those reforms included more rigorous daily inspections of the job site by the company’s foreman, in addition to hiring a third-party safety officer to review the property multiple times each month, Patel said Thursday.

“I think putting more eyes on the job convinced OSHA that something like [the scaffolding collapse] could be avoided in the future,” he said.

Patel said Union Power Stucco was solely responsible for the structural failure and that Jazzlyn Hospitality II replaced the company with a new contractor shortly after the incident.

Union Power Stucco staff referred a request for comment to the company’s lawyer. He could not be reached Thursday.

OSHA, which typically investigates workplace fatalities and serious injuries, opened its inquiry Feb. 19 after scaffolding collapsed at the hotel under construction at 120 Key Road that morning.

The site has been proposed as the location for a new hotel since at least 2007, but multiple development efforts have flamed out.

Jazzlyn Hospitality II acquired the Key Road property for $1.5 million in 2015 and began construction on a 100-room Hampton Inn & Suites two years ago. Patel, who said in 2019 he expected the hotel to be completed this past summer, believes it will now open in April 2021 and attributed the delay to a slowdown in the delivery of building materials caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Keene Fire Chief Mark Howard said Friday morning that high winds may have contributed to the scaffolding collapse but that the department had ceded its investigation of the incident to OSHA.

“I honestly had a suspicion that if things weren’t anchored right, with the amount of wind we had, something was going to happen,” he said.

At least one other person was on the scaffolding when it collapsed but avoided injury by jumping into the hotel’s interior through an open window, Howard said the Fire Department learned.

OSHA is still investigating a separate scaffolding collapse in Keene, which resulted in the death of a local man who had been painting the exterior of a Pearl Street building. That incident, in July, caused the man to fall on a tool in his hand, fatally piercing an artery, New Hampshire’s chief forensic investigator concluded.

Scaffold-related accidents are responsible for approximately 4,500 injuries and more than 60 deaths every year, according to the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Caleb Symons can be reached at 352-1234, extension 1420, or csymons@keenesentinel.com. Follow him on Twitter @CalebSymonsKS.