UPDATE: Oct. 14, 2019: In a statement issued Sunday, Oct. 13, SGL Constructors said it will begin girder erection once again on the I-4 Ultimate project in Orlando. That work is set to restart immediately.
In an email to Construction Dive, SGL said that moving forward, crews will use "precautionary modifications and safety measures that include expanded girder restraint procedures during installation."
Project officials have not yet determined the cause of Sept. 28's fatal accident — the fifth at the site — but said the investigation continues.
UPDATE: Oct. 2, 2019: After an evaluation of safety protocols, SGL Constructors restarted work Wednesday on the I-4 Ultimate highway project, Spectrum News 13 in Orlando reported. The site had been shut down since Saturday when a concrete beam fell and injured one worker and killed another, the project's fifth fatality since construction began in 2015. While the ban on the installation of concrete girders is still in place until investigators determine the cause of the accident, there is no word from the Florida DOT or OSHA about what type of inspections or monitoring — if any — will be required on the project going forward.
- A worker on the $2.3 billion, 21-mile I-4 Ultimate project in Orlando, Florida, was killed and another was injured after a concrete beam collapsed and struck both of them on Saturday, the Orlando Sentinel reported. This is the fifth fatality since work began on the project in 2015.
- The beam pinned Ulises Corrales Ibarra and struck another in the head. The other worker was released after being treated at a local hospital. According to News 6 in Orlando, the beam slipped off a piece of equipment.
- The Florida DOT, in a statement to Construction Dive, said work has been suspended along the entire route of the project, with the exception of maintenance, emergency repairs and safety patrols, while the department and general contractor SGL Constructors — a joint venture between Skanska USA, Granite Construction and The Lane Construction Corp. — ensure compliance with all safety protocols.
The FDOT said that construction crews will return to the I-4 Ultimate project today to review and assess safety plans, procedures, adequacy of tools, work conditions and job site safety in advance of returning to full operations, which is expected to happen later this week. Meanwhile, the department said, the investigation into the Saturday accident will continue. SGL has hired a forensic engineer to assist with the investigation, and OSHA has also been on site conducting its own inquiry.
Until the root causes of the accident can be determined, however, and pending FDOT approval, there will be no girder erection or installation.
Construction attorney Jason Kellogg, partner at the law firm of Levine Kellogg Lehman Schneider + Grossman in Miami, who spoke with Construction Dive on the general issue of safety and not to the specifics of the I-4 project fatality, said the agency's decision to shut down the project makes sense.
"It's a good thing that they push pause on the project, slow it down and get everybody focused on what’s important, and that is safety," Kellogg said.
Although there have been no specifics from the FDOT on what it will require in the way of enhanced safety measures, one of the conditions of re-opening the project and moving forward could be that it will demand that SGL increase inspections or even hire an independent safety monitor.
Kellogg said usually additional oversight on a project that has had a high rate of accidents comes from OSHA or some other governmental agency, although it is likely that if the FDOT were to take on that role, it would hire an outside firm to carry out the additional monitoring. Kellogg said that if there are additional safety measures required by the FDOT, the cost and effect on the schedule could be a future point of contention between the agency and SGL.
Contractors that have what OSHA considers unsafe worksites and repeat safety violations are often enrolled in the agency's Severe Violator Workplace Program. Contractors in the program receive increased monitoring and more inspections of jobsites.
All of the fatalities so far on the I-4 project have been struck-by incidents. The first one, which took place in February 2016, saw 34-year-old Marvin Franklin hit by a dump truck. Next, in December 2016, Curtis Popkey, 59, an employee of subcontractor Central Florida Underground, died after being hit by a piece of steel equipment. In March 2018, Michael Tolman, an employee of subcontractor Shelby Erectors, as killed after a rebar cage fell on him. The fourth fatality occurred in February of this year when a worker was struck in the head by a pipe.
SGL settled the February 2019 case with OSHA for $13,260, after the agency proposed an initial, total fine of $15,150.
The FDOT also issued the following media statement:
"We would like to offer sincere sympathy and condolences to the family during this difficult time. The FDOT expects a full accounting from the contractor as to the cause. Furthermore, FDOT will require corrective measures be put in place to prevent further injuries and deaths associated with this project. This includes an after action plan for increased safety and renewed emphasis that the contractor continues enforcing a culture of safety during all aspects of the I-4 Ultimate project."