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PennDOT Deal Reduces Bridge Fire Fines

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

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The contractor responsible for a fire that shut down Pittsburgh's Liberty Bridge for more than three weeks last fall won't be on the hook for all the fines originally assessed, according to new reports.

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported Saturday (July 8) that the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation struck a deal with Joseph B. Fay Co., of Tarentum, Pennsylvania, to reduce the record $3 million fine that was assessed after the fire, which stemmed from hot work being performed on the bridge rehab job. In exchange for the reduced fines, Fay has accelerated work on the bridge, speeding the project back toward its original schedule.

Liberty Bridge
Perry Quan, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Pittsburgh's Liberty Bridge, which carries an average of 55,000 vehicles each day, was closed for 24 days in September after hot work on a rehab project sparked a fire.

The fire took place Sept. 2, 2016. Exposure to the fire led a 30-foot steel chord, which was crucial to the structural integrity of the bridge, to bend.

The bridge, which carries an average of 55,000 vehicles each day, was closed for 24 days while the steel chord was reinforced and the span’s integrity was tested.

Credits for Reduced Downtime

According to WTAE-TV, Fay reduced the time two crucial ramps were closed by 52 days, netting more than $1 million in credits to offset the fines. The contractor eliminated another two-week period in which the bridge, normally four lanes total, would have been limited to two lanes, which reduced the fines by another $560,000, according to WTAE.

Liberty Bridge fire
Technology Publishing Co.

Corrugated piping caught fire during the cutting of steel on the worksite, leading to the larger tarp fire that bent a steel chord.

“Fay and PennDOT continue cooperative efforts to open the bridge earlier than originally planned to further minimize the impacts to the traveling public,” the contractor said in a statement sent to local news outlets. “Fay has willingly absorbed additional costs to successfully fulfill this objective. Finishing this project early helps our company heal from the financial and emotional impact that resulted from this unfortunate incident. Fay worked hand in hand with PennDOT throughout the entire process to provide the best solution to complete the project.”

OSHA Fines, Fire Citation

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration proposed $11.224 in fines for the contractor based on one violation stemming from the incident, but those fines were later reduced to $7,500. The case is listed as "closed" in OSHA's online database, suggesting the fines have been paid and the violation mitigated.

The OSHA citation said that corrugated piping on the job site was not properly moved or protected per workplace safety rules. The corrugated piping caught fire during the cutting of steel on the worksite, leading to the larger tarp fire.

OSHA also included a second, related violation, alleging that proper fire prevention precautions were not taken at the cutting site.

“A fire watch stationed on the middle platform did not adequately protect all areas where potential fire hazards exist,” the citation says. There was no fine related to this violation.

The Pittsburgh Bureau of Fire alleged in October that the company did not have a proper fire watch and did not have appropriate extinguishers on hand the day of the fire.

“We had fire watch on the bridge throughout our cutting operations and during the incident, as well as fire extinguishers and water hoses,” Fay said in a statement reported by local media at the time.

   

Tagged categories: Bridges; Fire; Government contracts; OSHA; Violations

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