In July 2014, Evergreen Erectors employee TJ Merrill fell to his death off the roof of BC’s new Health and Sciences building. He was 31 years old. While Merrill was working on the roof of the new Health and Sciences building during the morning of July 21, he fell off because, according to the police report, “he was unable to move from a ladder to the floor and the building had not framed in at the time.” As stated by KOMO News, “Medics were called to the college’s Health and Sciences building just after 10:30 a.m. for a report of a construction accident.” Merrill had fallen 50 feet from the roof and was proclaimed deceased by the paramedics.
Evergreen Erectors was cited by the Washington Department of Labor and Industries “for not properly laying down floor covers to prevent employees from potential falls.” The Washington Department of Labor and Industries cited the subcontractor $850. On Jan. 19, Evergreen Erectors filed an appeal. Furthermore, Bayley Construction was also cited due to not laying down floor covers or safeguarding handrails that could cause injuries by piercing through skin or catching on to clothing. According to the Department of Labor and Industries’ citation, “Bayley used rebar tie-wire in at least one roof-access location to secure handrails ‘with the twisted end protruding into the walk area.’ The top nail heads stuck out about a quarter-inch and the twisted rebar stuck out about a half-inch.”
The death of Merrill had various effects on Bellevue College. Vice President of Administrative Services Ray White stated “Obviously, construction was delayed several days during the investigation. I cannot comment on the impact to the construction crews. But within campus operations, we used the event as a somber reminder for all of us to become more aware in our work environment and it served as a call for us to redouble our safety efforts.” White also believes that workplace accidents can never be fully eliminated, but precautions can be taken. “We will never eliminate workplace accidents. But we must always work to improve employee safety in any way we can. This is the highest priority for campus operations.” Through this incident, Through this tradgedy, White hopes to strengthen the security efforts at BC to protect students and faculty.
Bayley Construction was fined a total of $3,300 by L&I. On Jan. 28, they filed an appeal. “My personal sense is that the low fine amount suggests that whatever findings they discovered during their investigation were not contributing factors to the accident,” responded White.
The president’s office at Bellevue College is currently planning to have a ceremony in dedication and honor of Merrill this summer. Details of the ceremony will be announced at a later date.