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SF Tunnel Death Spurs Contractor Checks

Friday, August 24, 2018

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A week after a worker was struck and fatally injured by a steel beam while working on a $40 million transit tunnel improvement project in San Francisco, the city’s transit authority is promising closer checks of contractors’ safety records.

Patrick Ricketts, a 51-year-old signal technician, was reportedly killed during work in the Twin Peaks Tunnel last Friday (Aug. 17). Work was stopped after the incident and resumed late the following day.

Safety Background

The San Francisco Municipal Transit Agency, which is overseeing the Twin Peaks Tunnel Improvement Project, came under criticism shortly after the incident, when it was revealed that contractor Shimmick Construction has faced numerous safety citations in recent years. Shimmck—alone and as part of joint ventures—has been slapped with 26 violations in the past five years by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, including six related to a forklift fatality at a Ventura County jobsite in 2016.

Twin Peaks Tunnel
Jef Poskanzer, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Construction on the Twin Peaks Tunnel project began in June and the work is expected to wrap up in January; the work involves maintenance and rehabilitation efforts for the interior of the 2.27-mile-long tunnel, which opened in 1917.

According to the San Francisco Chronicle, Shimmick said in pre-bid documents for the Twin Peaks project that it hadn’t been cited by Cal/OSHA for any serious or willful violations in the past decade, when in fact the company has been cited by the state agency for 39 violations in that time.

Shimmick was acquired by contractor AECOM last year; a major West Coast engineering contractor, Shimmick has been involved in many transit and transportation-related projects in California and is part of the joint venture currently installing the Golden Gate Bridge suicide-deterrent system.

San Francisco Mayor London Breed criticized the SFMTA for insufficiently vetting its contractor for the project, slamming the agency in a letter that also cited delays and service issues in recent months. SFMTA officials said in response that they will be conducting more thorough background checks of contractors. The agency had previously relied only on the contractors’ honesty in the bidding documents.

About the Project

Construction on the Twin Peaks Tunnel project began in June and the work is expected to wrap up in January; the work involves maintenance and rehabilitation efforts for the interior of the 2.27-mile-long tunnel, which opened in 1917. The project involves the replacement of the Muni train track in the tunnel, seismic reinforcement for the walls and updates to the tunnel’s drainage system.

The project is currently on budget and on schedule, according to SFMTA.


Tagged categories: Accidents; Bidding; General contractors; Health and safety; Mass transit; OSHA; Tunnel

Comment from john lienert, (8/24/2018, 5:28 AM)

maybe "three is a charm".....and a third fatality will be enough to yank the killer's contractor license (39 safety violations didn't get anyone's attention)

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