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WI Contractor Fined in 2nd Crane Death

Monday, January 7, 2013

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Two Wisconsin construction firms are being held liable for a fatal crane collapse at a bridge construction site last year—the second death in three months for one of the contractors.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has cited Lunda Construction Inc., of Black River Falls, WI, and Choice Construction Cos. Inc., of Menomonee Falls, with a total of 10 safety violations after a subcontractor’s truck driver was killed and a Lunda employee was seriously injured in the incident July 5.

Lunda’s fines total $105,000; Choice’s, $13,220.

For Lunda Construction, it was the second fatal crane accident in less than three months at a job site along U.S. Highway 41.

Highway 41 Crane Accident
Winnebago County Sheriff's Department

One worker was killed and one was seriously injured when the crane collapsed at the Lake Butte des Morts Causeway in Oshkosh, WI. Fines against the two contractors total nearly $120,000.

The company was already contesting citations that OSHA issued in an earlier fatal accident April 20 near De Pere, WI. That victim, a Lunda employee, was struck and killed by a crane section he was assembling.

OSHA had previously cited Lunda Construction five times since 2009, resulting in the issuance of five violations, the agency reported. OSHA records also show one or more citations against Lunda each year from 2003 to 2008.

With the new violations, OSHA placed Lunda Construction in its Severe Violator Enforcement Program, which focuses on what the agency calls “recalcitrant employers who endanger workers by committing willful, repeat or failure-to-abate violations.” The program allows OSHA to inspect any of the employer's facilities or job sites.

Lunda Construction’s attorney did not respond Friday (Jan. 4) to a request for comment.

July Fatality

The July incident claimed the life of Joseph R. Bidler, 35, of Green Bay. He was killed when a crane lifting a 52-ton concrete girder collapsed during work on the Lake Butte des Morts Causeway in Oshkosh, WI.

Bidler had worked 11 years for Spancrete, a pre-cast concrete manufacturer based in Waukesha. Spancrete was a subcontractor for Lunda, the general contractor on the $54 million project. OSHA said Bidler had been struck by the boom of a crane that overturned while bridge girders were being erected with a multiple crane lift. Spancrete was not cited in the case.

The crane was operated by Lunda employee Martin A. DeRidder, 33, who was thrown from the cab as the crane fell. He was seriously injured in the incident.

OSHA cited Lunda Construction for one willful and five serious violations in the incident.

Joseph Bidler Raymond Ashenbrenner

Joseph R. Bidler (left) died in the July 5 crane accident; Raymond Ashenbrenner (right) was killed on April 20. OSHA cited Lunda Construction in both cases.

The willful violation alleges failure to comply with crane operator standards by designating a lift director and conducting multiple crane-lift planning meetings. A willful violation is OSHA’s highest level of infraction, reserved for violations “committed with intentional knowledge or voluntary disregard for the law's requirements, or with plain indifference to worker safety and health.”

The five serious violations include:

  • Allowing a crane to travel with a suspended load;
  • Failing to train competent and qualified persons on their respective roles;
  • Inadequately attaching the crane to the barge;
  • Failing to use appropriate signaling methods suitable for the site conditions; and
  • Failing to meet the requirements of the critical lift plan.

A serious violation involves “substantial probability” of death or serious injury from a hazard about which the employer knew or should have known.

Choice Construction

Lunda had contracted with Choice Construction to provide manpower for erecting the girders. Choice was cited for four serious violations alleging failure to:

  • Develop an effective safety program;
  • Conduct competent and qualified person training; and
  • Comply with the provisions of the crane operating standards, including designating a competent lift director and conducting a multiple crane-lift planning meeting.

This was the third OSHA inspection for Choice Construction, which was previously cited for two other-than-serious violations.

Choice Construction president Brian A. Mitchell, P.E., called the case “a tragedy” Friday and declined comment on the citations.

Lake Butte des Morts Causeway Lake Butte des Morts Causeway rendering
Wisconsin DOT

The $54 million Lake Butte des Morts Causeway project in Oshkosh, WI, will widen the current bridge (left) to eight lanes (rendering, right). Lunda is the general contractor.

"Employers have a responsibility to take all necessary steps to eliminate hazards from the workplace and to ensure that workers are given the proper training to conduct required tasks, such as operating cranes and performing multiple crane lifts," said Nick Walters, OSHA's regional administrator in Chicago.

"It is tragic that one employee lost his life and another was seriously injured during this construction project."

Earlier Fatality

On April 20, Lunda employee Raymond Ashenbrenner, 59, of Black River Falls, was killed on a different Highway 41 work site while unloading a crane.

In that case, OSHA issued citations for three serious violations and proposed fines totaling $21,000. The violations allege failure to:

  • Train workers and provide written procedures on safe crane assembly;
  • Provide a competent person to supervise the assembly and disassembly of the crane; and
  • Follow the manufacturer's recommended procedures for assembly of the American 5299 crawler crane.

"If Lunda Construction had followed safety standards, this incident may have been prevented," Frank Winingham, OSHA's area director in Appleton, said at the time.

That case remains open while it is being contested.


Tagged categories: Access; Accidents; Bridges; Construction; Cranes; Fatalities; Health & Safety; OSHA; Worker training

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