Deafening noise, multiple fall hazards, lack of fire extinguishers, and unprotected work near energized electrical panels are among the federal health and safety violations a contractor faces on Boston’s massive Hultman Aqueduct project.
Barletta Heavy Division Inc., which is overseeing the five-year, $48 million project in Weston, MA, faces $52,500 in fines for several repeat and serious violations issued Tuesday (Feb. 22) by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.
The company, based in Canton, MA, has a history of OSHA violations, including citations for similar hazards at another Boston work site.
Repeat, Serious Citations
An OSHA site inspection found employees working without hearing protection inside the aqueduct tunnel amid noise levels capable of causing permanent hearing loss.
The tunnel also lacked fire extinguishers, and employees were working close to an exposed energized electrical panel, OSHA reported. The noise, fire extinguisher and electrical hazards resulted in the issuance of three serious citations with $15,000 in fines.
In addition, OSHA said, employees were exposed to fall hazards of up to 14 feet from a lack of fall protection and from using a ladder that did not extend at least three feet above the upper landing service for required stability. These led to two repeat citations and a proposed fine of $37,500. OSHA had cited Barletta in 2008 for similar fall hazards at worksites at Commonwealth Pier and Ashmont Station in Boston.
A repeat citation is issued when an employer has been cited for the same or a similar violation within five years. Serious citations reflect substantial probability of death or serious physical harm from a hazard.
Barletta could not be reached for comment Wednesday (Feb. 23).
The company has 15 business days from receipt of its citations to comply, meet with OSHA, or contest the findings before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.
Barletta Heavy Division drew 18 citations from five OSHA inspections between 2003 and 2008. The company paid more than $86,500 in substantially reduced fines after formal and informal settlements, and those cases are now closed.
Still pending, however, is a February 2010 case in which the company was issued 11 serious violations and a fine of $27,500 for allegations related to rigging equipment for material handling, requirements for protective systems and ladder violations. The case has tentatively been reduced to five citations and $8,500 in fines, but it remains open.
Barletta Heavy Division is one of The Barletta Companies, a group of separate legal entities controlled by certain members of the Barletta family.
The aqueduct—from 1939 to 2003, Metro Boston’s virtually only source of drinking water—has been undergoing a major overhaul since 2009. The structure was losing about 400,000 gallons of water each day from leaks, and authorities said a major breach was only a matter of time.
In 2003, the Massachusetts Water Resources Authority opened the MetroWest Water Supply Tunnel, a water transmission line that mirrors the Hultman Aqueduct route. Rehabilitation of the 13.4-mile long, 12.5-foot diameter aqueduct includes:
• Inspection and repair of 13.4 miles of existing aqueduct pipe;
• Inspection and repair of 46 culverts under the aqueduct;
• Replacement of 28 access manholes;
• Replacement of 15 blow-off structures; and
• New fencing and guardrails at 39 street crossings.
When the project is complete in 2014, the old and new systems will be used interchangeably.