Washington Construction Firm Fined $170,500 for Safety Violations

December 24, 2014

The Washington State Department of Labor & Industries (L&I) has cited Kiewit General Joint Venture for safety violations related to tower crane operations at its bridge pontoon construction site in Aberdeen.

Kiewit was cited for three willful violations and one serious violation, with total penalties of $170,500. A willful violation can be issued when L&I has evidence of plain indifference, a substitution of judgment or an intentional disregard to a hazard or rule. A serious violation exists in a workplace if there is a substantial probability that worker death or serious physical harm could result from a hazardous condition.

L&I initiated an inspection in June after receiving a report that a more than 13,000- pound concrete counterweight broke loose as it was being lowered from a tower crane. The counterweight fell 20 feet to the ground, narrowly missing two workers.

The employer was cited for failing to follow several of the manufacturer’s recommended changes after being notified of problems with flawed or defective lifting lugs on the counterweights. Changes were recommended in 2004, 2005, 2008 and 2011. Kiewit also did not follow the manufacturer’s recommendation to use alternative safety rigging on the counterweight.

As a result of these violations, seven employees working on the crane and on the ground below were exposed to serious injuries, crushing disabilities and possibly death.

The employer was also cited for:

  • Not ensuring that the tower crane assembly/disassembly director addressed hazards identified during disassembly operations.
  • Not following procedures during disassembly operations to prevent unintended and dangerous movement of the counterweight, which was one of the contributing factors leading to the lug failure and drop of the counterweight to the ground.
  • Not ensuring that a qualified person directed and observed the tower crane assembly and disassembly operations.
  • The employer has 15 business days to appeal the citations. Penalty money paid as a result of a citation is placed in the workers’ compensation supplemental pension fund, helping workers and families of those who have died on the job.

Source: Washington State Department of Labor & Industries

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