World Cup organizers add safety measures

Brazilian organizers are adding safety features where a worker died in the stadium hosting the World Cup opener, hoping to quickly reverse an order that halted construction in part of the venue. (Andre Penner/AP)
April 1, 2014, 1:44 PM

SAO PAULO, Brazil — Brazilian organizers are adding safety features where a worker died in the stadium hosting the World Cup opener, hoping to quickly reverse an order that halted construction in part of the venue.

The addition of new safety rails on Tuesday comes a day after labour officials said the installation of 20,000 temporary seats at the Itaquerao stadium could not continue until safety concerns were addressed. On Saturday, a 23-year-old worker died after falling from about 26 feet while installing the seats needed for the opener.

After a meeting with constructors, labour ministry officials in Sao Paulo said the work stoppage is expected to continue until next week. Construction in the rest of the stadium, which is already delayed, would continue as scheduled.

Fast Engenharia, the company in charge of the temporary structures, is expected to present a new safety plan on Thursday to show that all necessary measures will be implemented. Work would resume once the plan is approved and put into practice.

The company, which reiterated that all of its safety measures were in accordance with Brazilian regulations, said that after the analysis of the report it expected construction to "resume immediately so it could deliver the work by the established deadline."

Before the accident, FIFA expected the venue to be ready about a month ahead of the June 12 opening match between Brazil and Croatia.

Sao Paulo’s vice mayor didn’t expect the work stoppage to cause significant delays to the stadium’s construction, saying the installation of the temporary seats was a "relatively simple job."

"It’s not a complex situation," Nadia Campeao told Radio Estadao. "Even if work is stopped for a few days so the recommended adjustments can be made, it shouldn’t alter the final timetable."

FIFA and the local World Cup organizing committee released a statement downplaying the delay caused by the work interruption, which they called "standard procedure when accidents of this nature occur."

"FIFA and the LOC support any efforts to improve workers safety by the authorities," the statement said. "Given the advanced state of the assembling of the temporary stands, we believe that the schedule for delivery of these areas will not be impacted."

A labour ministry official in Sao Paulo said the construction stoppage was needed to eliminate the risk of another death.

"If there are no additional safety measures, the work can’t continue," Luiz Antonio de Medeiros told the Agencia Estado news service. "There was not enough protection, it was irresponsible."

Fast Engenharia has denied any wrongdoing and said the worker had all required safety equipment available to him at the time of the accident.

Investigators said an initial probe showed the worker didn’t connect himself to a safety cable. According to witness accounts, he said he only had a "quick thing" to finish at the site.

Medeiros said additional safety measures could have prevented the death even if the worker wasn’t connected to his safety cable.

The safety rails, which were among the requirements made by the labour officials, were being added around areas where workers installed the temporary seats.

Construction was already behind schedule at the Itaquerao stadium because of the damage caused by another accident that killed two workers following a crane collapse in late November. A giant roofing structure fell on part of the stadium’s facade, significantly pushing back the stadium’s date of completion.

The stadium, being built by popular Brazilian club Corinthians, is expected to cost about $490 million. In addition to the opener, it will host three group matches, one second-round game and one of the semifinals.

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