Bridge Contractor Fined for Fall Hazards

An employee was working on an upper deck, 37 feet above a lower platform, and fell through a ladder opening, landing on an employee who was working on the lower platform. Both employees survived the accident but suffered multiple injuries.

The Oregon Occupational Safety and Health Division (Oregon OSHA) announced June 19 that it has fined Jordan, Minn.-based Abhe & Svoboda Inc. $189,000 for nine safety violations that exposed employees to death or serious injury during a project to restore the Ross Island Bridge in Portland. Two of the violations are classified as willful, according to Oregon OSHA, which issued the citations after investigating a Feb. 8, 2017, incident on a scaffolding system.

It was installed beneath the bridge. An employee was working on an upper deck, 37 feet above a lower platform, and fell through a ladder opening, landing on an employee who was working on the lower platform. Both employees survived the accident but suffered multiple injuries, according to the agency, which found that the employee who fell was not protected by a fall protection system and several other employees were exposed to such hazards when the incident occurred.

Oregon OSHA said the contractor:

  • Failed to provide proper access to work areas, forcing employees to climb up or down the scaffolding and bridge structure and to sidestep or step over holes ranging in size from 3 inches to 24 inches
  • Failed to construct and install the scaffolding system according to the minimum bracing requirements as outlined by professional specifications
  • Did not have scaffolds and related components set up, dismantled, and moved under the direction of a competent person
  • Did not provide rest platforms for employees as they were climbing 37-foot ladders
  • Failed to ensure that employees had a work platform that was at least 18 inches wide
  • Did not ensure anchorages for fall protection equipment were installed or used under the supervision of a competent person
  • Did not ensure scaffolds were inspected for visible defects before each work shift by a competent person
  • Allowed a makeshift device – a wooden step stool – to be used on platforms to increase the working height of employees

"Each and every year, falls are one of the major sources of serious injury and death in Oregon workplaces," said Oregon OSHA Administrator Michael Wood. "There is never a good reason to ignore the need to protect workers from such hazards. Yet this employer brushed off time-tested fall protection rules that are designed to prevent injuries or deaths."

The violations classified as willful were the alleged failure to provide proper access to work areas, which forced employees to climb structures and step over holes, and the failure to follow bracing requirements for the scaffolding. Each carries the legal maximum penalty of $70,000. Seven of the nine violations were cited as serious, each with the maximum penalty of $7,000.

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