Deal Between OSHA, Bridge Maker Includes Fine, 'Unclassified' Violations

May 31, 2005
A St. Louis-based bridge building firm has agreed to pay $280,000 in fines and ramp up its safety oversight after being cited for an accident in Toledo, Ohio, that killed four workers and injured four others.

As part of the settlement with Fru-Con Construction Co. stemming from a Feb. 16, 2004, crane collapse, OSHA has revised the status of four violations it initially characterized as willful to "unclassified," according to Jule Jones, OSHA's Toledo area director.

Fru-Con, which is building a new Interstate 280 bridge over the Maumee River in Toledo, has agreed to pay $280,000 in fines -- the full amount proposed by the agency after its Feb. 16 inspection -- stemming from the accident and another $13,000 fine resulting from a March 18, 2004, OSHA inspection of a different Fru-Con work site in Toledo.

Fru-Con also has agreed to hire at least one "independent, qualified" safety consultant at all of its work sites across the country that involve bridges, according to OSHA. Among other stipulations, Fru-Con agreed to implement all recommendations made by whoever is hired to provide consulting services for the I-280 bridge project and report those safety improvements to OSHA.

OSHA is heralding the settlement as one that "offers an increased level of protection at all Fru-Con projects," according to Jonathan Snare, the agency's top administrator.

While Jones said OSHA's investigation determined that a self-launching crane -- known as a launching gantry -- was not properly anchored, Fru-Con, in a statement, says company officials "never believed any willful violations occurred."

"Fru-Con accepted the settlement as an alternative to lengthy and expensive litigation," the statement asserts.

The launching gantry was being used to help construct the future Maumee River Crossing bridge deck over I-280, according to The Toledo Blade. The crane slipped off piers and plummeted 60 feet, killing the four workers, according to the newspaper.

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