Four Contractors Cited in Connection With Double Fatality

Four contractors are being held responsible for the deaths of two workers in a sewage outfall tunnel beneath Boston Harbor.

Four contractor were cited by OSHA in connection with the deaths of two workers in a sewage outfall tunnel beneath Boston Harbor.

Norwesco Marine Inc., Black Dog Divers Inc., Kiewitt-Atkinson-Kenny JV, and ICF Kaiser Engineers of Massachusetts face a total of $410,900 in fines.

On July 21, 1999, employees of Norwesco and Black Dog were removing bulkheads located 9.5 miles into the tunnel when a malfunction occurred in their respirator system.

A Norwesco employee and a Black Dog employee who were in a transport vehicle monitoring three employees working farther out in the tunnel were overcome by insufficient oxygen and subsequently died.

The three other workers changed over to their alternative air supply and were able to exit the tunnel and return to the surface with the stricken workers.

According to Ruth McCully, OSHA's New England regional administrator, the inspection found that the tunnel lacked sufficient ventilation to provide life-sustaining amounts of oxygen to the workers.

McCully explained that the bulkhead removal was part of the completion of the tunnel's construction and, as such, is covered under the OSHA standard that requires fresh air to be provided to workers engaged in underground construction.

Apparently a mechanical ventilation system that supplied fresh air to workers had been in place during earlier construction, but was removed prior to the bulkhead work and not replaced.

"Rather than use the required ventilation system, the contractors decided to use a respirator system," said Brenda Gordon, OSHA area director for Boston and southeastern Massachusetts. "This respirator system was woefully inadequate in numerous ways and failed. As a result of these deficiencies, two men died and three others were put at risk."

Kiewitt and Kaiser shared responsibility for removing the ventilation system and were cited for the lack of ventilation.

Norwesco and Black Dog were issued Serious citations for the same violation.

All four contractors were also cited for Serious violations for failing to ensure that adequate illumination was provided for the work area and for failing to provide direct communication between the excursion workers and the surface.

The workers in the tunnel had no direct contact with the surface until they returned to the transport vehicle.

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