Bridge Contractor Faces $180,950 in Fines for Fall, Drowning Hazards

Brunalli Construction Co., the contractor rebuilding a bridge over the Housatonic River in the Falls Village section of Canaan, Conn., has been cited by OSHA for 13 alleged willful and serious violations of construction safety standards. The Southington, Conn.-based contractor faces $180,950 in proposed fines for allegedly failing to protect its employees against fall, drowning, and other hazards at the jobsite.

A December 2008 OSHA inspection found employees exposed to falls of up to 43 feet into the river while working without fall protection on unprotected or inadequately guarded sections of the bridge and using an access ladder of inadequate height. According to the agency, they also were exposed to drowning hazards due to the lack of life jackets, ring buoys, and a lifesaving skiff that are required to be used and readily available on site when employees work over water.

"The significant hazard of a four-story plunge was exacerbated by the lack of required lifesaving rescue equipment," said C. William Freeman III, OSHA's area director in Hartford, Conn. "While it's fortunate no fall or drowning occurred, the potential for a fatal or serious accident was real and present at this jobsite."

As a result, OSHA issued Brunalli three willful citations, with $147,000 in proposed fines, for the fall, drowning, and ladder hazards and 10 serious citations, with $33,950 in proposed fines, for additional fall-related hazards, puncture and laceration hazards from a damaged cable guardrail system, no hardhats for employees exposed to overhead hazards, amputation and laceration hazards from unguarded grinders, and no trained emergency responders on site.

OSHA defines a willful violation as one committed with plain indifference to or intentional disregard for employee safety and health. The agency issues serious citations when death or serious physical harm is likely to result from hazards about which the employer knew or should have known. Detailed information about fall hazards and safeguards is available on OSHA's Web site at www.osha.gov/SLTC/fallprotection/index.html.

Brunalli has 15 business days from receipt of the citations and proposed penalties to comply, request and participate in an informal conference with the OSHA area director, or contest the citations and proposed penalties before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.

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