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Scaffold Failure Injures 4 at TX Plant

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

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Four workers have been rescued from a 30-foot-deep pit after the scaffolding on which they were working failed at the Lubbock Wastewater Treatment Plant.

The incident occurred Tuesday afternoon at the plant. Authorities said four employees of Atlanta-based Archer Western Contractors were on the scaffolding when something caused it to collapse.

The four fell into a hole (also described as a pit and a well) 30 to 35 feet deep, local officials said. It was not clear how high up the men had been working.

 OSHA is investigating the accident at the Lubbock Wastewater Treatment Plant.

 Head Engineering Consultants

OSHA is investigating the accident at the Lubbock Wastewater Treatment Plant.

It took about an hour for the local fire department to rescue the men. Details on their injuries were unavailable, but they were not believed to be life-threatening.

Archer Western, which is performing a $40 million expansion of the plant, declined to discuss the incident. Local authorities were unavailable for comment.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration is investigating, and an inspector was on site Wednesday, an agency spokesman said.

OSHA Record

Established in 1983, Archer Western is a subsidiary of The Walsh Group, a Chicago-based general contracting, construction management, and design-build firm that also owns Walsh Construction.

Archer Western has seven regional offices and a record dating back years with OSHA, according to the agency’s records.

OSHA has inspected Archer Western various work sites 73 times in the last 10 years and issued at least 26 citations over 16 occasions, including several fatal accidents that occurred during joint ventures, OSHA records show.

3 Earlier Deaths

In March 2007, an employee was killed and two were injured on a Granite-Archer Western joint venture that was building a bridge in Mississippi, according to OSHA. An employee driving a crew boat collided with the bow of a barge in the water. The boat operator was killed, and two employees (one on the boat and the other on the barge) were injured.

The joint venture was initially fined $8,550, but that was later reduced to $5,670.

Three months later, two employees were killed and 10 were injured in another bridge accident involving Granite-Archer Western, according to OSHA records.

In the June case, a 48-foot vertical column form collapsed while employees were pouring in concrete on a bridge over the Bay of St. Louis.

Three employees managed to hold the handle of the concrete bucket and landed on the crane barge. Meanwhile, however, the top eight-foot section of the column, which included the guard rail system, broke off and plunged into the bay, dragging down the other nine employees.

Seven of the nine survived, but two drowned in the bay, which was 12 to 14 feet deep.

OSHA initially fined the JV $78,500, but the case was eventually settled for $13,500.

Other Incidents

In September 2007, Archer Western was fined $6,300 for a lockout/tagout violation after an employee in North Carolina was pulled into the concrete auger of a paving machine as it was being restarted. The employee survived.

In January 2008, OSHA inspected the company’s Georgia facility after an accident, but no citations were issued and the details of the incident were not available.

The company was also cited in Georgia after an October 2006 accident, but OSHA records did not detail that incident.

Sister Company Accidents

Walsh Construction, sister company to Archer Western, has also had a troubled year. In April, a worker was crushed to death on a Walsh bridge project in Indiana.

Two weeks before that, authorities ordered work halted on a Walsh bridge project in Connecticut after four serious accidents, including two crane collapses, in four months.

Connecticut DOT officials called the rash of accidents “entirely preventable” and “indicative of a systemic problem and a weakness” in the project safety program operated by Walsh and its joint-venture partner, PCL Civil Constructors.

Thirty-one employees were ordered to attend OSHA safety training before ConnDOT allowed the work to resume.


Tagged categories: Bridges; Construction; Fall protection; Health and safety; OSHA; Scaffolding; Wastewater Plants

Comment from Tom Schwerdt, (7/20/2012, 9:49 AM)

These fines seem incredibly low. Ignore safety, workers die, $8k fine.

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