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Region 1 News Release: BOS 2001-034
Monday, April 2, 2001
Contact: Ted Fitzgerald
Phone: (617) 565-2074
OSHA PROPOSES $69,000 IN FINES AGAINST BIG DIG CONTRACTOR FOR ALLEGED SERIOUS HEALTH & SAFETY VIOLATIONS AT SOUTH STATION UNDERGROUND CONSTRUCTION PROJECT
The U.S. Labor Department's Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has cited Slattery/Interbeton/J.F. White/Perini, J.V., a contractor on Boston's Central Artery/Tunnel Project, for alleged Serious and Other than Serious violations of the Occupational Safety and Health Act at an underground construction site. $69,000 in penalties are proposed against the contractor.
The alleged violations were discovered by OSHA during safety and health inspections of a tunnel jacking project located beneath railroad tracks leading into Boston's South Station railway terminal. OSHA initiated its inspections on December 5, 2001, as part of its ongoing monitoring of workplace safety and health on the Big Dig, said Brenda Gordon, OSHA area director for Boston and Southeastern Massachusetts.
"The health inspection found instances in which employees were overexposed to airborne concentrations of crystalline silica generated during construction and the employer failed to take necessary steps to minimize this hazard, even though its own sampling for silica showed excess silica levels," said Gordon. "The safety inspection identified several fall hazards, employees working without fall protection, electrical hazards, an impalement hazard, and inadequate protection against flying debris for equipment operators working at the tunnel's face."
Gordon explained that crystalline silica, a basic component of sand and gravel, is often generated during tunneling and other construction activities. Continued exposure to crystalline silica can lead to silicosis, a lung disease which causes scar tissue formation in the lungs that reduces their ability to extract oxygen from the air. Crystalline silica is also a known human carcinogen. OSHA standards require employers to develop and implement engineering controls to reduce exposure levels to toxic substances and, where respirators are used, to implement an effective and continuous respirator program.
"Though many of the cited hazards were addressed during the course of the inspection, it should not have taken an OSHA inspection to prompt this employer to ensure that these basic, well-known and necessary worker safeguards were in place and in use at this jobsite."
The Health inspection resulted in $35,000 in proposed penalties for five alleged Serious violations, for:
- four employees were exposed to excess levels of silica-containing crystalline quartz and the employer had failed to implement feasible engineering controls to reduce those exposure levels;
- failure to designate a qualified administrator for the worksite's respiratory protection program in that silica sampling conducted by the employer between May 1999 and December 2000 had not been correctly evaluated, respiratory protection had not been mandated, and employees' overexposure to silica went undetected;
- failure to identify and evaluate silica as a respiratory hazard in the workplace;
- failure to effectively evaluate the worksite's respiratory protection program to ensure its correct implementation and continued effectiveness and failure to regularly consult affected employees in order to identify and correct problems;
- failure to instruct employees in the recognition and avoidance of unsafe conditions concerning silica and in applicable regulations and protective measures.
The Safety inspection resulted in $34,000 in proposed penalties for sixteen alleged Serious violations, for:
- employees were not adequately protected against falls of up to 30 feet while climbing and working on concrete forms due to lack of a fall protection system at that location;
- employees were exposed to falls of up to 14 feet from bays where guardrails were not installed at unprotected edges;
- employees were exposed to a fall of 6-feet, 4-inches due to missing rails on a pipe scaffold stair tower;
- employees were exposed to falls through unguarded or uncovered holes and an uncovered ladder opening;
- toeboards were not installed along the edge of a mezzanine deck from which materials and equipment could fall onto employees working and walking below;
- employees operating roadheaders at the face of the tunnel wall were not adequately protected against flying debris, such as wood splints and rock chips, due to an inadequate screen in the front of the operator's cab;
- debris, materials and equipment were stored in front of electrical boxes, obstructing clear access;
- a power cord was not equipped with a ground fault circuit interrupter; worn and cut extension cords were used to power equipment;
- missing corner lights on a vehicle were not replaced before it was put in use;
- the backup alarm on a front end loader was not distinguishable from surrounding noise level;
- a grinder lacked a tongue guard and shield, was not secured to the floor and had excess space between its surface wheel and its work rest;
- workers were exposed to impalement injuries from an unprotected, protruding rebar.
Gordon urged Eastern Massachusetts employers and employees with questions regarding workplace safety and health standards to contact the OSHA area offices in Braintree or Methuen and added that OSHA's toll-free, nationwide hotline -- 1-800-321-OSHA (1-800-321-6742) -- may be used to report workplace accidents or fatalities or situations posing imminent danger to workers, especially if they occur outside of normal business hours.
A serious violation is defined by OSHA as 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.
OSHA is empowered by the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 to issue standards and rules requiring employers to provide their employees with safe and healthful workplaces and jobsites, and to assure through workplace inspections that those standards are followed.
The company has 15 working days from receipt of the citations and proposed penalties to either elect to comply with them, to request and participate in an informal conference with the OSHA area director, or to contest them before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.
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.
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