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OSHA: RI Bridge Project Lacks Fall Plan

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

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Inadequate rescue procedures and fall protection on a Rhode Island bridge project have landed the contractor in hot water with federal safety officials.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has issued willful and serious violations against S&R/Pihl, a joint venture LLC, for the hazards and fined the company $60,900.

 The 53-year-old Pawtucket River Bridge, shown here before construction began in 2010.

 Photos: RIDOT

The project involves building three separate structures to replace the 53-year-old Pawtucket River Bridge, shown here before construction began in 2010.

Most of the fine—$56,000—stems from the willful violation, OSHA’s highest level of infraction.

OSHA found that S&R/Pihl did not have procedures and equipment in place for the prompt rescue of employees working at heights of up to 90 feet, despite notifications by OSHA to do so.

The contractor’s emergency response plan did not ensure that proper rescue equipment and trained personnel were readily available if needed, OSHA said.

Willful citations are reserved for safety violations “committed with intentional knowing or voluntary disregard for the law’s requirements, or with plain indifference to worker safety and health.”

The company, which has a $106 million contract for the project, did not respond to a request for comment.

‘Rescue Measures Must Be Available’

“If employees fall from a high angle and are suspended by their personal fall arrest systems, or if they need to be evacuated from elevated work areas due to an emergency, then time is of the utmost essence in rescuing them,” said Patrick Griffin, OSHA’s area director for Rhode Island.

“Rescue measures, including appropriate equipment, must be available and ready to be put into use immediately. Despite being informed of this requirement, S&R/Pihl has thus far refused to take steps to abate this hazard to its employees.”

 The new bridge will feature three steel arches.
The new bridge will feature three steel arches that are being prefabricated and put in place. That phase of the project began in October.

OSHA also issued a citation with a $4,900 fine for a serious violation involving a lack of fall protection for employees working atop the bridge deck, who were exposed to falls up to 90 feet. A serious violation reflects “substantial probability” of death or serious injury from a hazard about which the employer knew or should have known.

About the Project

The Pawtucket River Bridge project began in November 2010. The Rhode Island Department of Transportation is replacing the bridge, which dates to 1958 and carries I-95 over Taft Street and the Pawtucket River. Three separate structures are being built: a bridge to carry I-95 Northbound; a bridge to carry I-95 Southbound; and a bridge for the on and off ramps.

The work also includes rehabilitation of three other local bridges. Completion is set for summer 2013.

Fall Prevention Campaign

In April, Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis announced a new campaign to reduce the toll from falls, which remain the leading cause of death in the construction industry.

More than 250 workers were killed and more than 10,000 were injured in 2010 as a result of falling while working from heights, according to OSHA.

The OSHA campaign advises workers to plan for employees working at heights, provide the right equipment, and train workers in fall hazards.

S&R/Pihl has 15 business days from receipt of its citations to comply, meet with OSHA or contest the case.


Tagged categories: Bridges; Construction; Contractors; Fall protection; Health and safety; OSHA; Violations

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