- The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has cited Pennsylvania contractor Francis J. Palo, Inc., for two serious safety violations in connection with a June bridge collapse in which at least two workers were injured. Palo is contesting the charges and the $9,800 fine, according to the News & Observer.
- The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation hired Palo to dismantle and rebuild a 103-year-old bridge 100 miles north of Pittsburgh, and OSHA contends that the bridge could not bear the weight of Palo’s equipment, particularly a 51-ton excavator parked on the bridge at the time of the collapse. The agency said Palo used a flawed engineering process to determine the bridge’s integrity and did not ensure the bridge could support the weight of the equipment.
- Employees injured during the bridge collapse have all recovered, according to the Observer, and all work has been completed on the now-open bridge. Neither PennDOT nor Palo would comment on the status of the OSHA case, and PennDOT has previously refused to release the results of its own investigation so as not to interfere with other investigations or public safety, according to the agency.
PennDOT has not commented on whether or not the agency failed to provide adequate oversight on the project, PennLive reported, or approved the use of excavation equipment on the fragile bridge. Some other reports say the collapse could have been the result of last year’s flooding of the bridge and surrounding area, which could have left the bridge more susceptible to collapse.
According to the Roadway Work Zone Safety and Health Partners Alliance, an average of 120 construction workers die in roadway work zones every year, and almost half of the fatal accidents involve on-the-job equipment or incidents with colleagues.
OSHA officials said they will attempt to settle the case with Palo over the next 45 days, and, if those attempts are unsuccessful, litigation is a possible next step.
The agency is gearing up for an August 2016 fine increase of approximately 80% in order to get in line with the Consumer Price Index — the first increase of OSHA fines since 1990.