Two workers were killed June 14, 2007, when bridge Column form fell.

Federal safety regulators cited Granite Archer Western, the joint venture contractor for the $266.8-million U.S. Hwy. 90 Bridge over St. Louis Bay in Mississippi for willful violation with a proposed $70,000 penalty for the June 14 column form collapse that resulted in two fatalities. “This collapse was preventable,” says Clyde Payne, director of the U.S. Dept. of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s area office in Jackson. “Willful characterization means the employer knew the requirements, was aware of the conditions and did not take any actions to rectify the situation.”

OSHA officially cited GAW for failing to correctly design, fabricate, erect, brace and maintain the formwork. Inspectors determined that the formwork was incapable of supporting the lateral load of the wet concrete. Basically, the column design would have been sufficient for the 112 cubic yards intended for that column, but not at the rate GAW was pouring, Payne says. “I’m not talking about going down the highway and getting pulled over for doing 56 in a 55,” he says. “They were greatly exceeding the rate.”

The form work in question is designed to withstand 1,000 pounds per square foot, Payne says. The pressure exerted on the form work is affected by three factors: placement of concrete; height of concrete in the column; and ambient temperature combined with the use of retardants or fly ash. “At the time of the accident, 94 cubic yards of concrete had been placed in the column,” Payne says. “The rate of placement, based on those factors, to stay within design pressures should have been 2 ft 8 inches per hour. They were pouring at a rate of 11 ft 8 inches per hour.”

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  • The joint venture of Granite Construction Inc. of Watsonville, Calif., and Archer Western Contractors of Atlanta were hit with the maximum penalty for a willful violation because of the severity of the violation and characterization of the firms, Payne says. “A lot of the penalty is based on characterization,” he says.  (For history of past violations, search the partner companies at www.osha.gov. Scroll down to lower right under statistics and inspection data.)

    GAW has also been cited with four serious violations and $8, 500 in proposed penalties, as well as for two other-than-serious violations. Three other contractors were also cited and issued proposed penalties, for a total of $95, 725. HNTB Corp. of Lake Mary, Fla., which performed design and CE&I for GAW, was cited with two serious violations carrying proposed penalties of $8, 425. URS Corp. of San Francisco, which performed quality control for the owner, received one serious violation with a $6, 300 proposed penalty. Both URS and HNTB were in positions of quality control, had employees on the column who were exposed to the conditions and sufficient management presence to implement changes, Payne says. OSHA also cited DT Reed Steel Co. of Chesapeake, Va., for two serious violations and proposed penalties totaling $2, 500. Those violations were unrelated to formwork or the accident.

    The four companies have 15 working days to contest the citations and proposed penalties before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission. GAW could opt to: pay the fine; meet with OSHA representatives to initiate an acceptable resolution; or take the matter into legal proceedings, Payne says.

    Bill Jackson, GAW spokesperson, said, “Having just received the citations from OSHA in the mail yesterday, we haven’t had the opportunity to fully evaluate the allegations that are made. We are not complete with our investigation and, given the time of the year, we want to use all of the time available to evaluate the appropriateness of appealing the citations.”

    GAW won a $5 million early completion incentive from the Mississippi Dept. of Transportation when the contractor delivered the first two lanes of traffic May 16, only a month before the accident.