BRAINTREE, Mass. -- A 46-year-old worker at a Boston steel fabrication shop died on Dec. 9, 2013, when a 12,000-pound steel bridge arch beam that he was spray painting fell and crushed him. An investigation by the U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration found that his employer, Boston Bridge & Steel Inc., failed to ensure that the fallen beam and three similar beams were adequately braced or supported to prevent them from falling while workers painted them.
'This death should not have happened-and would not have happened-if these beams had been properly secured,' said Brenda Gordon, OSHA's area director for Boston and southeastern Massachusetts. 'An incident such as this, and the incalculable loss of life that results, can be prevented only if employers provide and maintain effective safeguards for their workers.'
The employees, who were cleaning and spray painting the beams, also lacked adequate respiratory protection against vapors generated during the spray painting. The workers, who wore half-face respirators, had not been evaluated to determine their medical fitness to use respirators and had not been supplied with the correct respirator filters. The employees had not been informed and trained about the hazards associated with chemicals used during spray painting.
Additional hazards at the Marginal Street workplace included flying debris from an unguarded grinder and the use of a cleaning hose with excess air pressure; flash burns due to missing screens where welding was performed; electric shock and fire hazards from misused electrical cords and missing electrical knockouts; falls from a damaged access ladder; and slips and trips from accumulated ice and snow on an emergency exit route.
The company was cited for 13 serious violations for these conditions. 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.
Two repeat violations were cited for conditions similar to those cited by OSHA during 2010 and 2011 inspections, when the plant was known as Tuckerman Steel Fabrication Inc. These included fall hazards from an unguarded crane access platform and electrical hazards from running a flexible power cord through the wall to power equipment located outside the building. A repeat violation exists when an employer previously has been cited for the same or a similar violation of a standard, regulation, rule or order at any other facility in federal enforcement states within the last five years.
Boston Bridge & Steel Inc., which faces $72,450 in proposed fines, has 15 business days from receipt of its latest citations and proposed penalties to comply, meet informally with OSHA's area director, or contest the findings before the independent Occupational Safety & 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 Braintree Area Office at 617-565-6924.
Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, employers are responsible for providing safe and healthful workplaces for their employees. OSHA's role is to ensure these conditions for America's working men and women by setting and enforcing standards, and providing training, education and assistance. For more information, visit http://www.osha.gov/.