Occupational Health & Safety

The amendment alerts contractors working on National Highway System construction projects that FHWA requires them to comply with AASHTO standards, including one that requires a Registered Engineer for some bridge drawings.

OSHA Adds FHWA Reference to Steel Erection Standards

The technical amendment was added as a result of the May 15, 2004, collapse of a steel bridge beam onto an interstate highway in Colorado, killing three people in an SUV passing below.

Almost four years after the National Transportation Safety Board attributed the collapse of a steel bridge girder in Golden, Colo., on May 15, 2004, to the failure of a temporary bracing system by the contractor and poor oversight by the Colorado Department of Transportation, OSHA has made a technical amendment to its steel erection standards to alert construction contractors that the Federal Highway Administration requires a Registered Engineer to prepare drawings for such falsework in many cases. The falling beam, part of a bridge widening project at the intersection of Interstate 70 and Colorado State Route 470, struck an SUV passing beneath it, killed the occupants, a couple and their 2-year-old child.

NTSB issued its report on May 31, 2006. The report's recommendations to OSHA and FHWA stressed the importance of having a Registered Professional Engineer involved because OSHA's steel erection standards defined a "qualified person" as one who, by possession of a recognized degree, certificate, or professional standing, or who by extensive knowledge, training, and experience, has successfully demonstrated the ability to solve or resolve problems relating to the subject matter, the work, or the project -- thus, they did not require the person to be a Registered Professional Engineer. Ridge Erection Company Inc., the contractor that placed the Colorado beam, considered its safety officer to be a "qualified person" meeting the definition, but he had no engineering credentials, and the company had not worked on a highway bridge project for 14 years at the time of the beam's collapse, NTSB's report said. The report said the safety officer made a hand-drawn sketch, not to scale, of the temporary bracing for one girder of the three that were being installed, and CDOT did not request or require a formal plan for the erection of the girders or their bracing. The report discussed problems Ridge had in placing the girders, including initially attempting to install one of them backward.

The collapse that killed the family in the SUV happened three days after the girder's temporary bracing was installed, according to the report.

The amendment OSHA has made alerts contractors working on National Highway System construction projects that FHWA requires them to comply with standards, policies, and standard specifications published by the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials -- including, for bridge construction work, AASHTO's Standard Specifications for Highway Bridges, 15th edition,  which state that a Registered Engineer must prepare and seal working drawings for falsework in many cases.

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