Westwood, Mass., Construction Accident Results in OSHA Citations

Exposing employees to potentially fatal safety hazards at a Westwood, Mass., construction site has resulted in two Massachusetts employers and one Vermont employer being cited and fined a total of $224,000 by OSHA.

OSHA cited Jan Five, doing business as Alexandra Construction, and Epernay Design and Construction Inc., both of Newton, Mass., as well as Northern Construction Dynamics of Hyde Park, Vt., for alleged willful violations of the Occupational Safety and Health Act after the agency investigated an Oct. 1, 2002, accident at the Westwood High School construction project. In the accident, a 55-foot steel column toppled over after it had been placed on its foundation as soon as the crane line holding it was released.

"Fortunately, no one was injured in this incident, which could have had tragic consequences," said U.S. Secretary of Labor Elaine L. Chao. "These companies knew the safety standards they should have been following, and they all are being cited for willful violations of the law."

According to Brenda Gordon, OSHA's area director for southeastern Massachusetts, Alexandra Construction, as the general contractor on the site, is being cited for three willful violations, including allowing steel erection to begin before foundation material was sufficiently strong, and before giving written notification to the steel erector; allowing steel erection to begin before giving written notification to the steel erector that anchor bolts had been repaired; and modifying anchor bolts in an unsafe manner without the approval of the engineer of record. This company is also being cited for one other-than-serious violation for failing to secure a compressed gas cylinder. The total proposed penalty for this contractor is $126,000.

Epernay Design and Construction is being cited for a willful violation, with a proposed penalty of $56,000, for modifying anchor bolts in an unsafe manner without the approval of the engineer of record. Epernay Design and Construction was in charge of preparing the foundation of the building prior to steel erection.

Northern Construction Dynamics, the steel erection contractor, is being cited for one willful violation for beginning to erect steel before receiving written notification from the controlling contractor that foundation material had sufficient strength to support the steel. It is also cited for an other-than-serious violation for providing a discharged fire extinguisher for emergency use. The company's total proposed penalty is $42,000.

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. The companies have 15 days to pay the fines, appeal them or request a meeting with the area OSHA director.

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