OSHA: General Contractor Cited for Inadequate Rescue, Fall Safeguards

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is proposing $60,900 in fines against the general contractor on the Pawtucket River Bridge reconstruction for inadequate fall protection

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The U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration has cited the general contractor for the reconstruction of the Pawtucket River Bridge for alleged willful and serious violations of safety standards for inadequate rescue procedures and for fall hazards. S&R/Pihl, a joint venture LLC, faces a total of $60,900 in proposed fines following an inspection by OSHA's Providence Area Office.

OSHA found that S&R/Pihl did not have procedures and equipment in place for the prompt rescue of employees working at heights of up to 90 feet. The contractor's emergency response plan did not ensure that proper rescue equipment and trained personnel were readily available if needed.

As a result, OSHA issued S&R/Pihl a citation with a $56,000 fine for this willful violation. A willful violation is one committed with intentional knowing or voluntary disregard for the law's requirements, or with plain indifference to worker safety and health.

"If employees fall from a high angle and are suspended by their personal fall arrest systems, or if they need to be evacuated from elevated work areas due to an emergency, then time is of the utmost essence in rescuing them. Rescue measures, including appropriate equipment, must be available and ready to be put into use immediately," said Patrick Griffin, OSHA's area director for Rhode Island. "Despite being informed of this requirement, S&R/Pihl has thus far refused to take steps to abate this hazard to its employees."

OSHA also issued a citation with a $4,900 fine for a serious violation involving a lack of fall protection for employees working atop the bridge deck, who were exposed to falls up to 90 feet. A serious violation occurs when there is substantial probability that death or serious physical harm could result from a hazard about which the employer knew or should have known.

S&R/Pihl has 15 business days from receipt of its citations and proposed penalties to comply, meet with OSHA or contest the findings before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.

To ask questions, obtain compliance assistance, file a complaint, or report workplace hospitalizations, fatalities or situations posing imminent danger to workers, the public should call OSHA's toll-free hotline at 800-321-OSHA (6742) or the agency's Providence office at 401-528-4667.