The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has issued 17 citations against Jay Cashman Inc., a contractor building a portion of the new Brightman Street Bridge over the Taunton River between Fall River and Somerset , Mass., following a May 8 cofferdam collapse that seriously injured a worker. OSHA proposed $191,100 in fines against the Boston-based contractor.

"The Department of Labor is charged with protecting America's workers and enforcing the comprehensive laws that deal with worker safety and secure workplaces," Secretary of Labor Elaine L. Chao said. "These are our top priorities, and this citation clearly reinforces that commitment."

OSHA is citing Jay Cashman Inc. for one alleged willful violation, proposing the maximum fine of $70,000, exposing employees to crushing and drowning hazards in a cofferdam collapse. According to OSHA, the collapse was due to the employer's failure to construct cofferdams in accordance with their design and making changes to the cofferdams without consulting their designer. A willful violation is defined by OSHA as one committed with an intentional disregard of, or plain indifference to, the requirements of the Occupational Safety and Health Act and regulations.

"OSHA's inspection determined that the contractor had not constructed this and four other cofferdams on this project in accordance with their designs and had made many changes to them without consulting their designer," said Brenda Gordon, OSHA area director for southeastern Massachusetts. "These unauthorized changes weakened the cofferdams. If the workers had not been on a coffee break when the collapse occurred, the entire crew could have been crushed or drowned."

Fines totaling $85,000 are being proposed for four alleged repeat violations, for failing to properly secure cranes to floating barges to prevent their slipping overboard; fall hazards; failing to provide workers with safe access from the top of the cofferdam to lower levels; and not securing oxygen cylinders. Cashman previously had been cited for similar violations in March and June 2000, following OSHA inspections at jobsites in Boston. OSHA issues a repeat citation when an employer has previously been cited for a substantially similar violation and that earlier citation and its penalty have become final.

Cashman faces an additional $36,100 in fines for 12 alleged serious violations for not making provisions for prompt medical treatment in the event of serious injury; not promptly removing a defective crane from service; not performing trial lifts for crane-suspended platforms used to lift workers; impalement hazards; improper storage of oxygen and gas cylinders; tripping and falling hazards; an unguarded grinder; electrical hazards; improper use of portable ladders; and using inadequate wire ropes to lift and suspend cofferdam frames. A serious violation is one in which there is a substantial probability that death or serious physical harm could result, and the employer knew, or should have known, of the hazard.

edited by Sandy Smith