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OSHA Fines Firm $64K in Bridge Painter’s Death

Monday, June 5, 2017

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Federal workplace-safety regulators have proposed $64,000 in fines to a New York state bridge-painting firm in the wake of a November incident that claimed the life of one worker.

In a citation dated April 28 and only made public recently, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration issued six “serious” violations to P.S. Bruckel Inc., of Avon, New York. The violations allege that proper safety precautions were not taken the morning of Nov. 4, 2016, when a scaffold collapsed at a worksite in Kingsbury, New York.

Five workers fell into the Champlain Canal as a result of the collapse. Rahssan Smith, 41, of Albany, drowned. His body was recovered about 90 minutes after the incident.

P.S. Bruckel is contesting the violations. The company did not immediately respond to a request for comment Friday (June 2); the company declined comment to a local newspaper as well.

Incident During Tear-Down

The incident happened around 11:30 a.m. while a Bruckel crew, contracted by the New York State Department of Transportation, was working on painting the Smiths Basin Bridge on Route 149, about 50 miles north of Albany.

The crew had finished its painting work and was working on disassembling the scaffold platform when it failed, according to local authorities. According to reports, the platform’s safety features had been disassembled at the time of the collapse.

OSHA says two steel “belly” cables snapped, triggering the collapse and causing the employees to fall into the water.

OSHA Violations

According to OSHA, workers on the site:

  • Were not provided with approved life jackets;
  • Were not using fall protection continuously while working from suspended scaffolding; and
  • Did not have their personal fall arrest systems tied off to an anchor point.

The agency says that an employee “used the lip of the bridge beams to attach his lanyard’s snaphook to, which didn’t allow the snaphook to lock. This exposed the employees to fall hazards from the hooks coming loose off the beam during a fall.”

Another violation notes that workers were allegedly using fall arrest systems that allowed them to fall a distance that was greater than the distance from the anchor point to the surface of the water. OSHA also says multiple defects were found on the employees’ fall arrest systems, meaning that they were not properly inspected prior to the job.

OSHA also alleges that a lifesaving skiff, required to be readily available when workers are performing tasks over water, was not easily accessible. The citation says that an employee had to run about 400 feet to get to the skiff.

OSHA’s proposed fines for each violation range from $8,873 to $12,675; the total bill comes to $64,644. Fines can be reduced through an informal conference or a formal hearing with the Occupational Health and Safety Review Commission.

   

Tagged categories: Bridges; Contractors; Fall protection; Health & Safety; Health and safety; North America; OSHA; Regulations; Safety; Violations

Comment from David Rasmussen, (6/5/2017, 10:49 AM)

A tragic example of complacency and lack of personal safety awareness.No man's work day should end like this. My heartfelt prayers go out to the families and coworkers.


Comment from Thomas Van Hooser, (6/6/2017, 9:49 AM)

The value of viable enforcement of safety procedures coupled with qualified supervision cannot be over emphasized.


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