The Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority ordered a temporary halt of work on its $2.4-billion Purple Line Section 2 subway extension project over “serious and ongoing safety concerns” that officials said contractor Tutor Perini/O&G has not adequately addressed.

The suspension will last until Nov. 7, as long as the joint venture of L.A.-based Tutor Perini Corp. and Torrington, Conn.-based O&G Industries Inc., takes action outlined by Metro in an Oct. 21 letter. Otherwise, the agency may extend the suspension and remove some contractor personnel under the terms of the contract, officials wrote. 

The project is the second of three sections that would extend Metro’s Purple Line subway more than nine miles to L.A.’s Westside. This 2.59-mile track section would include two new stations at Wilshire/Rodeo and Century City/Constellation. Work on the section started in February 2018 and is expected to complete in 2025.

There have been 13 recordable injuries on the project since July 2021, Metro records show. Two employees suffered crushed fingers, one stepped on a nail hidden in muck and two fell off ladders, including one case where the fall was caused by the ladder breaking. Most recently, an employee’s hand was apparently injured Oct. 18 while handling a steel beam that was being transported with rigging attached to a forklift. 

Two cases resulted in lost time, according to Metro. In one, a trolley hoist roller disconnected, causing a beam to bump employees. In another, an employee was struck by a 6-in. compressed air hose when another employee loosened a bolt on a connection. 

There have also been 37 first-aid injuries on the project, Metro records show. In a letter to the contractor, Metro’s senior executive officer of project management, Michael McKenna, and its contract administration director, Kenneth Stewart, wrote that the contractor's Total Recordable Rate on the project has been above the national average since December 2020 and that Metro had repeatedly shared concerns over safety issues with the contractor. 

Despite assurances that conditions would improve, the Metro officials wrote that “the situation has continued to deteriorate” with more injuries including “many more incidents that could have been more serious.”

The California Division of Occupational Safety and Health has opened “numerous inspections” on the project, a spokesperson said via email. The cases are still in progress.

The injury rate is “unacceptable,” said Metro spokesperson Dave Sotero in a statement. “The safety of those building our county’s transportation projects must always be protected. We expect the contractor to improve its safety policies and to demonstrate its full compliance with all of Metro’s contract safety requirements before we allow work to continue.”

Before lifting the suspension, Metro wants Tutor-Perini-O&G to perform a root cause evaluation of the past incidents with a broad review of its safety programs and supervision. As part of the review, officials want the contractor to propose steps to address the cause of the pattern of safety incidents and prepare a revised safety plan with documented and verifiable compliance thatt should include training, worksite conditions, housekeeping measures and supervision, among other elements. 

Jorge Casado, a spokesperson for Tutor Perini, said in a statement that the company is committed to providing a safe work environment for its employees, as well as subcontractors, customers and the public. An O&G spokesperson deferred to Tutor Perini. 

“We are investigating and working cooperatively with Metro to address the issues they have identified, determine their cause and ensure that we live up to the high safety standards we have set,” Casado said.