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OSHA Cites Bad Bracing in Steel Fatality

Friday, June 6, 2014

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A massive steel beam that fatally crushed a painter last year at a Boston steel fabricator was not properly braced, nor was its stability maintained, federal officials say.

Marco Antonio Huezo Mancea, 46, of El Salvador, was killed Dec. 9 when a 12,000-pound steel bridge arch beam he was spray painting fell and crushed him.

Huezo Mancea's employer, Boston Bridge & Steel Inc., now faces $72,450 in proposed fines for 13 serious and two repeat safety and health violations, which also include fall, electrical, chemical and mechanical hazards, the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration announced Monday (June 2).

Boston Bridge & Steel
Photos: Boston Bridge & Steel

A 46-year-old employee of Boston Bridge & Steel died in December after a 12,000-pound steel beam he was painting fell on him. According to OSHA, neither that beam nor three others had been properly braced.

Boston Bridge & Steel fabricates metals for the power plant, heavy industrial, heavy highway, railroad, commercial building and offshore marine industries. The company operates two 25,000-square-foot fabrication shops with overhead cranes, as well as a customizable paint and blast facility.

4 Hazardous Beams

OSHA said its investigation found that Boston Bridge & Steel had failed to ensure that the fallen beam and three similar beams were adequately supported or braced to prevent them from falling while workers painted them.

"This death should not have happened—and would not have happened—if these beams had been properly secured," said Brenda Gordon, OSHA's area director for Boston and southeastern Massachusetts.

"An incident such as this, and the incalculable loss of life that results, can be prevented only if employers provide and maintain effective safeguards for their workers," Gordon said.

The company did not respond to a request for comment this week.

Steel Beams, Respirators Cited

OSHA cited the company for 13 serious violations, which are those that reflect "substantial probability" of death or serious physical injury from a hazard the employer knew or should have known about.

According to the citation document, Boston Bridge & Steel had four steel bridge arch beams, about 12,030 pounds each, that were not properly supported on the facility's concrete floor and the stability of the arches was not maintained. This safety violation, which resulted in Mancea's death, carries a $7,000 penalty.

Employees cleaning and spray-painting the beams also lacked adequate respiratory protection, according to OSHA. The workers, who wore half-face respirators, had not been evaluated to determine their medical fitness to use respirators and had not been given the correct respirator filters.

OSHA fatality investigation

OSHA issued 13 serious and two repeat citations with proposed penalties of $72,450.

Additionally, OSHA said employees had not been informed and trained about the hazards associated with chemicals used during spray painting.

OSHA also cited the company for serious violations, including:

  • Hazards from flying debris from an unguarded grinder;
  • Using a cleaning hose with excess air pressure;
  • Flash burn hazards due to missing screens where welding was performed;
  • Electric shock and fire hazards from misused electrical cords and missing electrical knockouts;
  • Danger of falls from a damaged access ladder; and
  • Slip and trip hazards from accumulated ice and snow on an emergency exit route.

Repeat Fall, Electrical Hazards

Boston Bridge & Steel was also cited for two repeat conditions that were similar to ones OSHA had cited during 2010 and 2011 inspections; the plant was then called Tuckerman Steel Fabrication Inc.

The two repeat violations included fall hazards from an unguarded crane access platform and electrical hazards from running a power cord through the wall to power equipment outside the building. Proposed penalties for these violations total $23,100.

According to OSHA, repeat violations exist when an employer was previously cited within the last five years for the same or a similar violation.

The company has 15 business days from receiving the citations to comply, request an informal meeting with OSHA's area director, or contest the findings before the independent Occupational Safety & Health Review Commission.


Tagged categories: Fall protection; Fatalities; Fire; Health and safety; OSHA; Paint application; Respirators; Spray Paint; Steel; Worker training

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