Pennsylvania Contractor Fights OSHA Citations in Bridge Collapse

January 6, 2016

A contractor is contesting two “serious” violations and nearly $10,000 in proposed federal workplace safety fines in the partial collapse of a bridge that was being dismantled and rebuilt northwestern Pennsylvania.

Clarion-based contractor Francis J. Palo Inc. is contesting the violations and $9,800 in fines proposed Dec. 3 by the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration citations.

The contractor was hired by the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation to dismantle and rebuild the 103-year-old North Broad Street Bridge in Ridgway when its northbound side collapsed June 18. Three workers were injured, none seriously.

OSHA cited the contractor for not properly studying whether the bridge could support the various demolition vehicles and equipment being used and, specifically, for parking a nearly 51-ton excavator on the side of the bridge that collapsed.

Palo president Paul Roman said the company won’t comment on the alleged violations and proposed fines until they’re finalized. OSHA officials met with Palo officials on Dec. 17 in an attempt to settle the violation claims, but Palo advised the agency it was contesting the violations and fines on Dec. 24, OSHA spokeswoman Joanna Hawkins said.

The agency will forward the violations to the agency’s regional office for litigation if they can’t be settled within 45 days, Hawkins said.

The bridge carries U.S. Route 219 over Elk Creek and was being rebuilt one side at a time because it was on PennDOT’s list of structurally deficient bridges. The $2.2 million project wrapped up in October.

Roman, the contractor’s president, told The Associated Press in June that diamond-saw crews were cutting through concrete preparing the northbound side for demolition when that section of the bridge collapsed.

The excavator was towed out and demolition work continued on the northbound side of the bridge the next day. Roman said then that a beam failure caused the northbound lane to give way prematurely.

A Palo employee walking on the bridge suffered a bruised shoulder when the span failed and fell about 20 feet. Two other employees, who both worked for a subcontractor, were hurt. One broke his ankle and the other had his hard hat jammed down on his head so hard that he suffered cuts.

About 5,500 vehicles cross the bridge daily.

Ridgway is about 100 miles northeast of Pittsburgh.

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