Roofing worker dies at Norristown, Pa. jobsite for Amazon

A New Jersey worker building an Amazon warehouse in Norristown died last week after falling from the roof of the building, according to federal and local authorities.

Wilmer Mejía Landaverde, 24, of Trenton, died July 6 as a result of injuries from the fall, according to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, or OSHA, which is investigating the incident. The accident happened around 3:48 p.m. at 53 West Germantown Pike, according to East Norriton Police. Amazon was not involved in the construction and is not being investigated.

Trenton-based B&C Construction Contractors employed Mejía, the family name. According to OSHA, the prime contractor for the Norristown job site was Malvern-based IMC Construction.

Mejía’s brother, Josué, said Mejía was a Honduran citizen and the family owned a small cattle ranch in the Copan region of western Honduras. Mejía has been working as a roofer in the United States since about 2015, his brother said.

Josué said he and his brother were replacing roofing material about 25 feet above the ground before Mejía’s fall. He recalled that he and his brother removed the safety cords while fetching water, a move that Josué Mejía says is not uncommon on a job site.

“We had a cable [attached]. As you work, you put it on and off. Maybe five minutes on, one minute off, then on again,” Josué Mejía told an Inquirer reporter in Spanish. “At this point, unfortunately, we stopped with the great heat to drink water [and took off the cable]. And when we got back, we didn’t put it back on right away. That happens a lot on these jobs.”

A B&C Bouw representative declined to comment.

In a statement, an official of IMC Construction, the prime contractor, said: “Despite extensive safety training, inspections, procedures, instructions, on-site safety personnel and mandatory safety requirements, the worker was seen by his colleagues removing his mandatory safety line from his safety harness while he was on the roof and fell within minutes.”

OSHA, noting that the accident site was a non-union, conducted: three more inspections of IMC Construction workshops since 2017, including one last month in Whitehall, Leigh County. Online data does not say what the inspections have yielded.

Amazon, which is expanding rapidly in the region, had nearly 60 facilities online or in operation by April, including at least seven smaller facilities in Philadelphia and many larger ones in West Deptford, Carneys Point, Reading and Wilmington.

In a statement, Amazon spokesperson Branden Baribeau noted that the Norristown site is under construction by a general contractor, with no Amazon employees.

“We are saddened by this tragic incident and extend our deepest condolences to his family and loved ones,” he said. “It is our understanding that OSHA is conducting research and we will work with them as needed.”

OSHA said it has up to six months to complete the investigation. In addition to B&C Construction Contractors and IMC Construction, the agency said it was investigating the primary roof contractor, which it initially identified as A. Poletto & Associates, based in West Chester.

OSHA said the company was the leading registered roofer for the construction site, according to information it received from IMC Construction.

But Tony Poletto, a representative of A. Poletto & Associates, said the company was not working on the Norristown project and said another company, Poletto Roofing, was the registered contractor. The two companies “are separate and separate legal entities that do not share common ownership,” said Poletto’s attorney, Stephen McDonnell.

Ed McGinn, a Poletto Roofing attorney, declined to comment.

According to the latest figures from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the deadliest jobs in Pennsylvania were the construction and private transportation and storage industries. There were 26 fatalities in both sectors in 2019.

According to federal data, 5,333 workers across the country died on the job in 2019, or about 15 deaths per day. According to OSHA, the most frequently violated safety standards for fall protection were during the 2020 fiscal year that ended in September.

“Falls are among the most common causes of serious work-related injuries and deaths,” OSHA experts warn on the agency’s website. “Employers should arrange the workplace so that employees do not fall from overhead platforms, elevated workstations or into holes in the floor and walls.”

Comments are closed.