Work continues on the $803-million I-10 Twin Spans bridges in New Orleans despite a second accident by the lead contractor on the project in two months.
A Boh Bros. Construction, New Orleans crane operator remains in the hospital in serious condition after falling 30 ft. from the bridge into Lake Pontchartrain Dec. 23 when his crane became unbalanced, eventually toppling into the water as well.
"Our employee was operating a mobile hydraulic crane to move a steel roadway curb from into position on the north end of the project," says Robert Boh, company president. "For reasons as yet not fully understood, the form was lifted beyond the safe working radius of the crane, causing the machine to tip over against the bridge rail."
Employees quickly responded, Boh says. They secured and stabilized the crane and summoned a rescue boat with additional help. "The injured employee, who was unconscious at this point, fell from the crane into the water. Because the boat was in position, our employees were able to rescue the injured employee and bring him to shore. Only after our injured employee had cleared the area did the workers release their hold on the crane; it then fell into the water."
The crane operator received emergency medical attention on shore and was transported to an area hospital. Although his family asked that his name not be released, the man is "an experienced, careful crane operator, well-respected for his abilities and skill," Boh says. The man has more than 20 years as a crane operator and has worked for Boh since 2001 and on the Twin Spans project for more than two years, he adds.
"The public demands that we maintain safe roads and bridges, and DOTD will do everything within its legal authority to ensure that our contractors' worksites also are safe," says Dr. William Ankner, secretary of the Louisiana Dept. of Transportation and Development. Ankner promised a DOTD review of contractor safety issues and a commitment to make any necessary changes to policies, training and procedure. "I expect our contractor to thoroughly review, enforce and, if necessary, revise all safety plans, procedures and employee safety training," Ankner says.
Boh is also investigating the cause of the accident. On Dec. 26, Robert Boh released a formal statement, expressing concern for the injured employee and reassurances to other employees and the community about the company's commitment to safety.
"In light of the public interest in the two serious accidents on this project, we would like to reassure the community that the safety of Boh Bros.' employees and the public on all company jobsites is our primary focus and highest priority," Boh says. "The company is reviewing its safety procedures and the safety training of its employees to assure that the Twin Span project will be built in accordance with that priority. We will also be meeting with all employees on the project to reinforce all safety protocols and will actively seek out any additional steps we can implement to improve safety."
Eric Troy Blackmon, 44, a foreman and 11-year Boh employee was killed Oct. 30, and two others were critically injured, when a girder rolled off a bent during a deck-form flipping operation, sending 10 workers into the water. The DOTD suspended activities surrounding the deck-form flipping from girders until Dec. 16, when it approved Boh's additional safety procedures to prevent girders from rolling. Investigations into the cause of that accident are still ongoing.
Following the Dec. 23 crane accident, the DOTD did not suspend construction on the Twin Spans, referring to the accident as an isolated incident.
In his statement, Boh thanked employees for responding to the accident "with such heroic efforts to aid their fellow employee. We would also like to thank the emergency medical personnel and all healthcare providers who worked so hard for our employee," Boh says.
Boh Bros. holds a $379-million contract for construction of the 4.5-mile low-rise portion of the bridge. The joint venture of Traylor Bros. Inc., Evansville, Ind., Kiewit Southern Company, Peachtree City, Ga. and Massman Construction Co., Kansas City, has a $166.6 million contract to construct the high-rise portion of the new Twin Spans. Both are on schedule.
Fully funded by the Federal Highway Administration, the bridges are to replace the east-west artery that was severely damaged in Hurricane Katrina. In addition to performing in record time the emergency repairs to the damaged bridges, Boh won the contract to open the westbound span of the new bridge by next Oct. 22, and the eastbound span by Aug. 3, 2011.
As the death toll from the record-setting hurricane mounts in the Bahamas and damage estimates there and in the U.S. head into the billions, industry experts see increasing pressure to address infrastructure resilience.