A Chicago builder managing a $131 million bridge rehab project has been fined $10,000 for the death of a lift operator on the job—a penalty that the victim’s brother compares to “me … buying a Coke.”
|Roger Lee Cox was found pinned between an aerial lift basket and bridge beam 68 feet in the air. He died three days later.|
The Indiana Department of Labor issued two serious safety violations July 20 against the Walsh Construction Group in the death of Roger Lee Cox, 50, of Austin, IN. Cox was found unconscious April 30 while working on the Milton-Madison Bridge.
He died May 3, after life support was removed.
2nd Death, 3rd Troubled Project
Cox was the second worker killed on a Walsh construction project in two weeks.
His death also followed the temporary suspension of work on Connecticut’s Moses Wheeler Bridge, a Walsh joint venture project that was plagued by a rash of serious accidents. In that case, authorities mandated additional safety training for Walsh’s employees.
Both of the bridge projects were last reported running ahead of schedule, prompting authorities on the Moses Wheeler project to question whether fatigue may have contributed to the accidents. Walsh says it did not.
Walsh has told not commented publicly on the cases and did not respond Tuesday (July 31) to another request for comment.
Lack of Training Cited
In the new citations, IOSHA alleges that Cox was not adequately trained on the aerial boom lift he was operating around scaffolding on the Milton-Madison span over the Ohio River.
Construction began early last year on that project, which will replace the 83-year-old bridge with a new 2,400-foot-long steel truss structure connecting Milton, KY, and Madison, IN.
|One week before Cox’s accident, Connecticut DOT ordered work suspended on the Moses Wheeler Bridge, a $230 million project led by a Walsh joint venture. That action followed four “entirely preventable” accidents at the site in four months, ConnDOT said.|
“Roger was real proud about working on the bridge, but he did say something before to his wife about ‘if anything happens to me, you make sure you go after them,’” Rita McCauley, Cox’s sister, told WDRB News of Louisville, KY.
Because of the dangerous nature of his work, Cox had taken out an accidental death insurance policy to protect his wife and daughter, his brother Tim told the news outlet. After Roger Cox died, the medical insurer denied payment “because they didn't have a police report to show it was an accidental death,” Tim Cox said. “And then [Cox’s widow] got the letters from worker’s comp saying he died of natural causes because they’re trying to say it's a heart attack.”
Tim Cox said his brother had been found pinned 68 feet off the ground between the lift basket and a bridge beam. “Nobody knows how long he was out of oxygen,” he said, according to WDRB.
Tim Cox called the IOSHA fine meaningless. "It's like me going next door and buying a Coke,” he told the news agency. “They've got so much money it doesn't faze them a bit."
Other Investigation Continues
IOSHA is still investigating the April 16 death of a highway worker employed by Walsh’s office in Crown Point, IN. David Anderson, 33, was fatally pinned against concrete barriers that he was placing near a highway ramp, authorities said. Police believe an excavator operator lost track of where Anderson was standing when he moved the vehicle.
Anderson’s death occurred the same day that the Connecticut Department of Transportation temporarily suspended work on the $230 million Moses Wheeler project being run by a joint venture comprised of Walsh and PCL Civil Constructors.
ConnDOT called the halt two days after a crane collapsed at the site, leaving a worker with broken ribs and a concussion. The April 14 incident was the fourth “entirely preventable” serious accident on the project in four months, ConnDOT’s District Engineer wrote the contractors.
ConnDOT officials “believe these incidents are indicative of a systemic problem and a weakness in the Walsh/PCL safety program on this project,” the engineer wrote.
Work was allowed to resume after a week of OSHA safety training.
In January 2008, a Walsh employee was struck by a cement truck and killed while directing traffic in a highway work zone in Chicago. OSHA said the employee was not wearing a traffic vest or using signs or paddles to direct the traffic. Walsh was not cited in that incident.