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Bridge Project Halted After 2nd Death

Thursday, May 26, 2011

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The Tennessee Department of Transportation has suspended a massive rehab project on the historic Henley Bridge in Knoxville after a second worker was killed on the job this week.

Solin Estrada Jimenez, 50, of Chattanooga, died Tuesday afternoon when a concrete rock was somehow jarred loose from a support beam, falling and striking him in the head while he was working from a barge moored below, Knoxville Police Information Officer Darrell DeBusk said.

It was not clear what Jimenez was doing when he was struck.

2 Deaths, 4 Months

Jimenez died almost four months to the day after project foreman John Womac, 33, of Athens, TN, was fatally struck in the head on the site.

Womac was hit Jan. 25 by the bucket and arm of a track hoe on the south side of the bridge, according to the Tennessee Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

Both men worked for Britton Bridge LLC, of Mount Juliet, TN. The company did not respond Thursday to a request for comment and has released no statement in Jimenez’s death.

 Henley Bridge

 Brian Stansberry / Wikimedia Commons

Two workers have died since a $24.7 million rehab project on the historic Henley Bridge began in January.

Work on the $24.7 million rehabilitation and widening project, which began Jan. 3, has been temporarily suspended while both TDOT and TOSHA investigate.

Contractor’s Projects Stopped

TOSHA fined Britton Bridge $16,750 in Womac’s death, alleging seven serious safety violations. They included lack of fall protection, failure of a heavy equipment operator to use a seat belt, a disabled reverse warning alarm on a piece of machinery, and improperly stacked pipe.

Britton Bridge is contesting the citations and fine, so the case will be reviewed by the TOSH Review Commission. A hearing date has not been set.

However, TDOT is not awaiting the results of the Jimenez investigation to act against the contractor. The agency has already suspended all projects by the contractor statewide.

TDOT noted that the company had voluntarily suspended its projects after Tuesday’s accident, but the agency reinforced the action with an official suspension, saying it was “crucial” for its safety staff “to review the measures in place before any project work continues.”

"We want to conduct a thorough assessment of all safety measures in place on these projects to ensure the welfare of the other employees," TDOT Commissioner John Schroer said in a release.

TDOT also said it would temporarily disqualify Britton Bridge and any related companies from bidding on future construction projects “until a more comprehensive review of their safety procedures can be conducted.”

Project Change Sought

Womac's death was the first for Britton Bridge since the company was created in 2000, Jeff Hentschel, spokesman for the Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development, told the Knoxville News Sentinel.

The 1,800-foot Henley Bridge was closed Jan. 3 for the $24.7 million renovation and rehabilitation project, which was expected to take 24 to 30 months. The decks and floor beams are deteriorating on the bridge, which dates to the early 1930s.

The News Sentinel reported in December that Britton Bridge owner Jerry Britton was seeking TDOT’s approval to start work in the middle span of the bridge and then work south, before coming back and working on the north end, which provides access to games at the University of Tennessee.

"It's not really changing that much," Britton told the paper. "We can get started a little sooner. The hope is to be done with everything in the center span, then south and get the stuff over Neyland Drive [on the north] last.

"It's no extra money. There's no extra cost associated with this. If everybody is concerned with getting this done as soon as possible, we will all work together."

It could not be determined Thursday whether TDOT had approved that change in the job sequence.


Tagged categories: Accidents; Bridges; Fatalities; Health and safety; Maintenance coating work; OSHA

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