Kiewit-General “committed willful and serious safety violations” in Washington state accident, fined $150,000
I noticed some interesting and heavy activity yesterday on my blog, from a US source using Level 3 Communications out of Maryland, U.S. – a company that interestingly enough, was spun off from Kiewit Diversified Group, a subsidiary of Peter Kiewit and Sons. The interest was very specifically focused on the posts I’ve written that involve or feature Kiewits work in BC, and most recently on the issues with the retaining walls along the Sea to Sky Highway.
This prompted a bit of digging around since often traffic like that can lead to a story or a related story. And sure enough,something popped up.
Kiewit-General will receive a fine of more than $150,000 for willful and serious safety violations stemming from an accident at the site in Aberdeen where pontoons for the floating bridge are being constructed, according to a source with knowledge of the incident, which led to an investigation by the Washington State Department of Labor and Industries.
On June 21, 2014, a 13,000-pound concrete counterweight being lifted off a construction crane fell to the ground, narrowly missing two workers. Five workers were on the crane at the time, and could have been seriously injured or killed if the crane had collapsed, according to the source.
KIRO Radio has viewed video of the incident, during which the man filming seems to have anticipated an accident of some kind.
“And that’s why I was filming,” he said.
The video was sent to L & I, which led to an investigation.
State inspectors found that a steel hook attached to the top of the counterweight, which is used to lift it, broke free from the concrete and steel frame it was cast in.
The accident led to serious revelations about Kiewit, including accusations that the company knew for nearly 10 years that the steel hooks could be faulty, but failed to take action.
The hook in question, called a lifting eye, was the subject of a manufacturer’s bulletin in 2005 and again in 2011. The bulletin indicated that the steel lifting eyes could fail and should be inspected. If irregularities were found, the manufacturer provided a set of guidelines that companies should follow to fix the lifting eyes.
Kiewit, before it joined with General on the 520 bridge project, owned several tower cranes that used the questionable lifting eyes. Instead of repairing the lifting eyes as the manufacturer recommended, Kiewit attempted its own repairs or, in some cases, didn’t attempt any repairs, the L & I investigation found, according to the source.
The source said Kiewit had, on multiple occasions, disassembled and then re-erected tower cranes in Washington state without replacing potentially faulty lifting eyes when they had the chance.
As a result, Kiewit-General, as a joint venture, will receive willful violations for failing to follow recommendations from the crane equipment manufacturer, failing to address the hazard, and putting employees in direct danger of a tower crane collapse. The company also received serious violations for using a worker that wasn’t qualified to oversee crane disassembly at the Aberdeen site, and for allowing that worker to develop procedures they were not qualified to develop.”
Read the rest of this story,listen to audio and video features showing footage of the crane accident HERE: http://mynorthwest.com/11/2670486/Investigation-520-bridge-contractor-put-workers-in-danger-of-crane-collapse
This particular bridge project has been plagued with issues, which I covered here after Dave White of News1130 broke the story in BC- this is a *must read* refresher:
Of course, all this talk about bridges,crane collapses and safety violations brought me back to the very big crane mishap that happened on the Port Mann Bridge during construction. https://lailayuile.com/2012/11/10/port-mann-bridge-builder-kiewit-faces-construction-concerns-in-the-u-s/
I did a bit of research but couldn’t find any reports detailing the results of the Worksafe BC investigation into that accident, and after going through the archives on the Worksafe BC newsroom site, I called their media room to ask what the findings were or if they were released.
I was told they were not available and that I would have to file an FOI ( Freedom of Information request) to find out. I asked if it were possible to simply find out if any fines or infractions were issued without details, and again, told to file an FOI. (This has already been done by a source and the results will be shared. )
One would think the results of a WorkSafe BC investigation into a very public accident on a public project would not be a private or personal matter. It is possible to report the findings without naming individuals.
***Update 2pm Dec 19/2014 :
From our dear friend NVG ( virtual fist bump here) in the comments below, a link to a story from The Sun where it mentions the reason Worksafe BC might not even have anything to FOI – they allowed Kiewit/Flatiron to do their own investigaton. Shocking excerpt :
“What made the gantry collapse? Al Johnson, Work-SafeBC’s regional director in charge of regulating construction, said the two companies that designed and built the bridge, Kiewit and Flatiron, were best able to answer that question.
“Sometimes we do our own investigation, but in this particular incident our officers felt that (the companies) had the engineering expertise – and they brought engineers in that knew specifically about the truss,” Johnson said. “So we were satisfied that they had the right engineers on the job to evaluate what occurred, what went wrong, and how to prevent that … from happening again.”
WorkSafeBC met with the companies on Nov. 7 after their investigation was finished.
“They were using the truss in what they call an ‘unconventional’ way,” Johnson said. “In this cantilevered position, the truss is sitting on two short front legs and two larger back legs.”
When the 90-tonne segment was moved out to the end of the cantilever, the front supporting legs began to bend.
“It would be sort of like if you had a table with very simple legs, like a card table, and you had short legs on one side and longer legs on the other side, and you started to push it forward,” Johnson said. “The front legs collapsed.
“Their engineering design hadn’t given consideration to all the different factors of using it that way.”
Kiewit has a long history of being one of the contractors favoured by the BC Liberal government, along with SNC Lavalin and Macquarie, but one with a questionable track record.
Their safety record was detailed at length in this excellent piece by Tom Sandborn in the Tyee last year: http://thetyee.ca/News/2013/04/08/Kiewit-Record/
The ministry of Transportation has yet to respond to the questions asked in this post: https://lailayuile.com/2014/11/27/sea-to-sky-retaining-wall-questions-continue-as-internal-emails-indicate-kiewit-inspected-their-own-work/
** In February 2014, BIV noted that Kiewit/Flatiron general partnership had filed suit with regards to the segment dropped into the river during the Port Mann bridge incident, alleging the defendents ” failed to “specify and deal with the risk that the main truss might slide during span-by-span erection of segments on a slope.” http://www.biv.com/article/2014/2/port-mann-bridge-contractor-files-suit-over-segmen/