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Region 1 News Release:   BOS 2001-165
Monday, November 5, 2001
Contact: John Chavez
Phone: (617) 565-2075

COFFERDAM COLLAPSE BRINGS OSHA CITATIONS AND FINES AGAINST CONTRACTOR

BOSTON - A May 8 cofferdam collapse in southeastern Massachusetts that seriously injured a worker has resulted in the U.S. Labor Department's Occupational Safety and Health Administration proposing $191,100 in fines against a Boston-based contractor.

Jay Cashman, Inc., which is building a portion of the new Brightman Street Bridge over the Taunton River between Fall River and Somerset, Mass., was cited on Thursday, November 1, 2001, for alleged willful, repeat and serious safety and health violations for failing to properly construct the cofferdam and for numerous other hazards.

"The Department of Labor is charged with protecting America's workers and enforcing the comprehensive laws that deal with worker safety and secure workplaces," Secretary of Labor Elaine L. Chao said. "These are our top priorities, and this citation clearly reinforces that commitment."

OSHA is citing Jay Cashman, Inc. for an alleged willful violation, proposing the maximum fine of $70,000. A willful violation is defined by OSHA as one committed with an intentional disregard of, or plain indifference to, the requirements of the Occupational Safety and Health Act and regulations.

"OSHA's inspection determined that the contractor had not constructed this and four other cofferdams on this project in accordance with their designs and had made many changes to them without consulting their designer," said Brenda Gordon, OSHA area director for southeastern Massachusetts. "These unauthorized changes weakened the cofferdams. If the workers had not been on a coffee break when the collapse occurred, the entire crew could have been crushed or drowned."

Fines totaling $85,000 are being proposed for four alleged repeat violations, for failing to properly secure cranes to floating barges to prevent their slipping overboard; fall hazards; failing to provide workers with safe access from the top of the cofferdam to lower levels and not securing oxygen cylinders. Cashman previously had been cited for similar violations in March and June 2000, following OSHA inspections at jobsites in Boston. OSHA issues a repeat citation when an employer has previously been cited for a substantially similar violation and that earlier citation and its penalty have become final.

Cashman faces an additional $36,100 in fines for 12 alleged serious violations for not making provisions for prompt medical treatment in the event of serious injury; not promptly removing a defective crane from service; not performing trial lifts for crane-suspended platforms used to lift workers; impalement hazards; improper storage of oxygen and gas cylinders; tripping and falling hazards; an unguarded grinder; electrical hazards; improper use of portable ladders; and using inadequate wire ropes to lift and suspend cofferdam frames. A serious violation is one in which there is a substantial probability that death or serious physical harm could result, and the employer knew, or should have known, of the hazard.

The inspection was conducted by OSHA's Braintree, Mass., area office.


Citations and Proposed Penalties
Jay Cashman, Inc. - Taunton River Cofferdam Collapse


  • One alleged willful violation, with a proposed fine of $70,000, for:
    -- employees exposed to crushing and drowning hazards in a cofferdam collapse due to the employer's failure to construct cofferdams in accordance with their design and making changes to the cofferdams without consulting their designer.

  • Four alleged repeat violations, with $85,000 in fines proposed, for:
    -- three cranes placed on barges were unsecured or inadequately secured against slipping overboard;
    -- employees exposed to fall hazards in or at cofferdams;
    -- failure to provide safe access from the top of the cofferdam to lower levels;
    -- oxygen cylinders not secured against falling.
    [The company had previously been cited for substantially similar violations in March and June 2000, following inspections at jobsites in Boston, Mass.]

  • Twelve alleged serious violations, with $36,100 in fines, for:
    -- temporary pier maintained in poor conditions; employees did not have safe access to the pier;
    -- medical provisions had not been made prior to project's start for prompt medical aid in the event of serious injury;
    -- cofferdam bracing frames lifted by inadequately spliced wire ropes used to lift cofferdam bracing frames;
    -- a grinder was missing a guard;
    -- oxygen and acetylene cylinders stored together;
    -- reverse polarity in machines, electric receptacles, extension cords and light stations;
    -- employees exposed to tripping and fall hazards on temporary pier;
    -- defective crane operated more than a week with a defective boom fall cable;
    -- personnel platform used without trial lifts and proof testing first being performed;
    -- employees exposed to impalement hazards from unprotected reinforcing steel inside cofferdam;
    -- inadequate ladder clearance; misused step ladder.

Total proposed penalties:                                 $191,100

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The information in this release will be made available to sensory impaired individuals upon request. Voice phone: (617) 565-2072. TDD (Telecommunications Device for the Deaf) Message Referral Phone: 800-347-8029.


Archive Notice - OSHA Archive

NOTICE: This is an OSHA Archive Document, and may no longer represent OSHA Policy. It is presented here as historical content, for research and review purposes only.

OSHA News Release - (Archived) Table of Contents

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