OSHA Cites Contractors After Platform Collapse


The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration recently cited two contractors following a partial building collapse in Boston last year that led to a worker losing his legs.

On May 5, 2022, a concrete mezzanine platform on the west wall of a building at the former Boston Edison power plant collapsed during demolition and asbestos abatement operations. In addition to the employee who lost his legs, two other workers suffered injuries.

“The employers in this case exposed employees to the immediate hazard of structural collapse and the potential long-term consequences of asbestos exposure,” explained OSHA Area Director James Mulligan in Braintree, Massachusetts.

“These hazards are preventable and employers can control and eliminate them. Had they ensured proper planning—including engineering surveys and frequent and regular jobsite inspections, effective safety procedures, personal protective equipment and employee training—was in place, this incident and the violations that followed might have been avoided.”

Contractor Penalties

According to OSHA’s release, inspections the Agency conducted determined that NorthStar Contracting Group Inc., and the project's Boston-based general contractor, Suffolk Construction Inc., failed to ensure adequate demolition and asbestos safeguards for their employees.

As a result, OSHA issued citations to NorthStar for three willful violations, four serious violations, and one other-than-serious violation of workplace safety standards, totaling $399,864 in penalties. The Administration reportedly found that the contracting company failed to:

  • Conduct an engineering survey to determine the condition of the mezzanine and framing, and floors and walls during demolition operations to avoid the possibility of unplanned collapse;
  • Ensure a designated competent person performed or supervised required duties in the asbestos containment area, such as regular and frequent jobsite inspections, protecting the integrity of the enclosure and setting up and maintaining control of personnel entering the area;
  • Conspicuously post the safe weight load limit on the mezzanine floor where demolition and asbestos debris was being stored;
  • Train employees adequately to recognize and avoid collapse, struck-by, and crushing hazards;
  • Ensure employees entering and working in regulated asbestos containment areas wore respirators and did not have facial hair or beards that came between the sealing surface of the facepiece and the face and/or interfered with valve function;
  • Remove asbestos containing waste by end of shift; and
  • Provide OSHA 300 logs to investigators within four business hours.

NorthStar’s citations can be viewed here.

OSHA also issued two willful and three serious citations to Suffolk Construction and proposed $292,116 in penalties. The company allegedly failed to:

  • Inspect the contractor's work in the asbestos regulated containment area to ensure compliance with all aspects of the asbestos standard;
  • Ensure employees wearing respirators inside regulated asbestos containment areas did not have facial hair that came between the sealing surface of the facepiece and the face and/or interfered with valve function;
  • Have a plan in place to prevent an unplanned collapse of the mezzanine;
  • Conspicuously post the safe weight load limit on the mezzanine floor where demolition and asbestos debris was being stored; and
  • Provide frequent and regular inspections inside the asbestos control area of the mezzanine.

Suffolk Construction’s citations can be viewed here.

Northstar did not respond to a request for comment from The Boston Globe at the end of last year. However, Suffolk said in a statement it was “disappointed” and disagrees with the preliminary findings.

“We will continue to work closely with the demolition contractor NorthStar and all parties involved in this project to maintain the highest level of safety on the jobsite,” the company said.

“As always, safety is our number one priority and we are committed to working with stakeholders throughout the industry to improve construction safety and ensure all workers return home safely at the end of the work day.”

FY 2022, Other Common Violations

At the end of last year, OSHA revealed its annual top 10 most frequently cited workplace safety standards for fiscal year 2022. The list was presented exclusively with the National Safety Council during the 2022 NSC Safety Congress & Expo.

“OSHA’s annual Top 10 list helps define trends so safety professionals can find the appropriate solutions,” said Lorraine Martin, NSC President and CEO at the National Safety Council during the 2022 NSC Safety Congress & Expo. “Despite advancements in workplace safety, we continue to see the same types of violations each year. It’s more important than ever employers seek education and resources to keep their workers safe.”

The Top 10 most frequently cited standards for FY 2022 are:

  1. Fall Protection – General Requirements (1926.501): 5,980 violations;
  2. Hazard Communication (1910.1200): 2,682;
  3. Ladders (1926.1053): 2,471;
  4. Respiratory Protection (1910.134): 2,430;
  5. Scaffolding (1926.451): 2,285;
  6. Lockout/Tagout (1910.147): 2,175;
  7. Powered Industrial Trucks (1910.178): 1,922;
  8. Fall Protection – Training Requirements (1926.503): 1,778;
  9. Personal Protective and Lifesaving Equipment – Eye and Face Protection (1926.102): 1,582;
  10. Machine Guarding (1910.212): 1,488.

Note: The numbers above were pulled from a more recent article from Safety+Health. They have since been updated from the original announcement regarding OSHA’s Top 10 most frequently cited standards for 2022. Additional Top 10 “serious” and “willful” lists can be accessed here.

In 2021, Respiratory Protection came in at No. 2, counting 2,527 violations that year. Hazard Communication, however, fell from the No. 2 in 2020 to the No. 5 spot with 1,947 violations.

In 2020, Respiratory Protection violations came in at the No. 3 spot, reporting 2,649 violations. This was followed by Scaffolding (2,538) and Ladders (2,129), which have been trading places on the Top 10 list for the last several years.

In 2019, Hazard Communication also came in at No. 2, counting 3,671 violations that year. Respiratory Protection violations, however, rose from the No. 5 spot with 2,450 violations. The same top 10 were also featured in the 2018 list with the spots varying. The Electrical—Wiring Methods violation has not been on the list since 2017.

Earlier this month, adjustments made by OSHA to the civil penalty amounts went into effect.

Based on cost-of-living adjustments for 2023, the adjustments are mandated by the Federal Civil Penalties Inflation Adjustment Improvements Act, which was passed in 1990 and was amended in 2015 to advance the effectiveness of civil monetary penalties and to maintain their deterrent effect.

According to the Department, OSHA’s maximum penalties for serious and other-than-serious violations increased from $14,502 per violation to $15,625 per violation.

The maximum penalty for willful or repeated violations will increase from $145,027 per violation to $156,259 per violation.

Visit the OSHA Penalties page and read the final rule for more information.


Tagged categories: Accidents; Asbestos; Civil Penalty; Contractors; Demolition; Department of Labor; Good Technical Practice; Health & Safety; Health and safety; NA; North America; OSHA; OSHA; Program/Project Management; Safety; Violations; Workers

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