Bay Bridge Contractor Failed to Report Injuries, Cal/OSHA Concludes

The contractor in charge of building an earthquake-proof replacement to the eastern span of the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge has been cited after the state's workplace safety agency concluded that the contractor failed to record or inaccurately recorded as many as 13 worker injuries, some of them serious.

As a result, the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal/OSHA) slapped Kiewit/FCI/Manson Joint Venture (KFM) with $5,790 in citations including a willful regulatory citation of $5,000.

The injuries included incidents in which a worker was struck in the head and lost consciousness and another in which a worker fell off the back of a flatbed truck and became disabled. In other instances, workers suffered head, neck, back and extremity injuries.

Eleven out of the 13 injuries happened in 2004, doubling the contractor's injury rate that year. Also, KFM reportedly has failed to investigate and record two worker accidents and was late in reporting two other cases also in 2004 according to Cal/OSHA.

The citations followed an investigation by Cal/OSHA triggered by allegations former workers made last year that the joint venture's squeaky-clean safety record was in fact "sanitized."

Kent Grisham, a spokesman for Kiewit the largest company in the partnership told the Associated Press that the consortium would appeal the citations as there were based on "record-keeping and paper-processes only."

A call made to Grisham on June 5 was not returned.

Cal/OSHA Defends 'Compliance Assistance Partnership'

Cal/OSHA and KFM have established what the agency calls a "compliance assistance partnership," which allows Cal/OSHA free access to the worksite at any time in exchange for KFM's agreement to correct identified hazards found during a visit. According to the agreement, Cal/OSHA does not issue citations for hazards found during these visits provided they are promptly corrected.

Cal/OSHA maintains that the partnership is a success. Len Welsh, acting chief of Cal/OSHA, said that numerous hazards have been identified and eliminated without delay and that the $1.7 billion San Francisco Bay Bridge project is one of the safest construction worksites given that the type of construction work is considered to be among the most hazardous.

"The investigation leading to the citations we have just issued revealed some discrepancies between the injuries recorded on KFM's Cal/OSHA 300 Log and the recordable injuries found to have occurred at this project," Welsh said. "However, we still consider the informal compliance assistance partnership to be successful overall in that no fatalities and very few serious injuries have occurred."

In February, a state audit found that Cal/OSHA had failed to investigate 15 instances in which injuries potentially met the Title 8 recording criteria but were not included on KFM's Log 300s. (See "Bay Bridge Project: Audit Calls for Better Safety Oversight".)

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