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The Oregon Occupational Safety and Health Division fined Abhe & Svoboda Inc. $189,000 for nine safety violations — two of them willful — for exposing employees to death or serious injury as they worked on a project to restore the Ross Island Bridge in Portland, according to an announcement from the regulator’s office.
Oregon OSHA cited the violations after an investigation into a Feb. 8, 2017, accident underneath the bridge, where a suspended scaffolding system was installed. An employee was working on an upper deck, 37 feet above a lower platform when he fell through a ladder opening, landing on another employee who was working directly below on the lower platform. Both employees survived the accident but suffered multiple injuries, Oregon OSHA reported.
The employee who fell was not protected by a fall protection system, per Oregon OSHA’s rules. The investigation found that an estimated eight employees were exposed to this hazard when the accident occurred, according to Oregon OSHA.
The investigation also found a number of other violations, ranging from failure to provide proper access to work areas, forcing employees to climb up or down the scaffolding and bridge structure and to sidestep or step over holes ranging in size from three inches to 24 inches, the lack of rest platforms, and more. Moreover, the company also failed to construct and install the scaffolding system according to the minimum bracing requirements, as outlined by professional specifications, per Oregon OSHA.
“Each and every year, falls are one of the major sources of serious injury and death in Oregon workplaces,” said Oregon OSHA Administrator Michael Wood in a press statement. “There is never a good reason to ignore the need to protect workers from such hazards. Yet, this employer brushed off time-tested fall protection rules that are designed to prevent injuries or deaths.”
Officials with Jordan, Minnesota-based Abhe & Svoboda could not be reached for comment.
DENVER — A clash of workplace safety philosophies was on display at a safety conference on Wednesday, with panelists debating the extent to which employees are part of the problem or the solution to reducing workplace safety incidents.