Oregon OSHA says a bridge contractor willfully exposed employees to death or serious injury as they worked to restore the Ross Island Bridge in Portland. An investigation into a February 8, 2017, incident yielded nine safety violations for the Minnesota-based contractor and proposed fines of $189,000.
According to the state OSHA program, the accident happened underneath the bridge, where a suspended scaffolding system was installed. An employee was working on an upper deck, nearly 40 feet (ft) above a lower platform. He fell through a ladder opening, landing on another employee working directly below the lower platform. Both employees survived, but they sustained multiple injuries.
The worker who fell was not protected by a fall protection system as required. In fact, the agency estimates that eight employees were exposed to the same hazard when the incident occurred. Investigators also found that:
- The company failed to provide proper access to work areas. This forced employees to climb up or down the scaffolding and bridge structure and to step over holes.
- The employer failed to construct and install the scaffolding system according to minimum bracing requirements.
- Scaffolds and other components were not set up, dismantled, and moved under the direction of a competent person.
- There were no rest platforms for employees climbing 37-ft ladders.
- The employer did not ensure that employees had a work platform at least 18 inches wide.
- Anchorages for all protection equipment were not installed or used under the supervision of a competent person.
- A makeshift device—a wooden step stool—was used on platforms to increase employees’ working height.
Oregon OSHA Administrator Michael Wood noted that workplace falls are a major source of serious injury and death in the state each year. “There is never a good reason to ignore the need to protect workers from such hazards. Yet, this employer brushed off time-tested fall protection rules that are designed to prevent injuries or deaths.”