Republic employees were constructing support columns for the new bridge near Johns Island when the first accident occurred Aug. 16. A crane collapsed while lifting a reinforced steel cage weighing about 100,000 pounds from a barge to the inside of a bridge column form. Parts of the crane fell into traffic lanes of the two-lane Stono River Bridge, which was open to traffic. No one was injured.
Although South Carolina administers its own occupational safety and health plan, federal OSHA conducted the investigation because the accident occurred on a floating barge located in navigable waters. Evidence from the investigation, which began Aug. 18, revealed the crane was not attached to the barge, equipment required to safely lift the load was missing from the crane and the crane's computer warning system had been bypassed.
The agency issued three serious citations with total proposed penalties of $9,000.
On Sept. 12, another Republic crane at the same construction site overturned, narrowly missing several yachts moored at a nearby marina. The operator sustained minor cuts and bruises. Federal officials found the crane also was not secured to the floating barge. The company received one willful citation with a proposed penalty of $49,500 for failing to secure the crane.
The company also received two serious citations with proposed penalties totaling $5,750 for failing to properly inspect the crane before putting it into use and for safety hazards that occurred a few days later when the company began a welding and cutting operation to recover the overturned crane.
"If this company had exercised its safety and health responsibilities both accidents could have been prevented. That they took no action to correct hazards after the first crane collapsed shows intentional disregard for their workers' safety and OSHA's requirements," said William Fulcher, OSHA's acting area director in Columbia
After the second accident, the state of South Carolina and federal OSHA conducted inspections at Republic's other bridge-related sites. At the Isle of Palms, officials noted a hazard related to an unsecured crane that was not in use. The agency issued a serious citation with a proposed penalty of $2,250. Federal and state officials will continue to monitor and inspect Republic's sites to ensure safety is a priority at the bridge project.
The company has 15 days to contest the federal citations and proposed penalties before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission, schedule an informal meeting with the area OSHA director, or agree to the fines.