Suffolk Construction and key subcontractor NorthStar Contracting Group face $691,000 in federal safety fines stemming from a wall collapse during demolition of a shuttered power plant in South Boston that left three workers injured, one seriously.

The U.S. Occupational Health and Safety Administration has proposed $292,116 in penalties against Suffolk and nearly $400,000 against NorthStar Contracting Group for alleged safety lapses during the May 4 accident at the now closed Boston Edison plant.

In the incident, an employee of the demolition contractor lost both of his legs.

NorthStar could not be reached for comment, while Suffolk, in a statement, said the general contractor is “disappointed” and disagrees “with the preliminary findings by OSHA.”

However, in a press release, the agency said its inspectors had determined that both contractors “failed to ensure adequate demolition and asbestos safeguards for their employees.”

Had proper procedures been put into place and followed by both contractors, “this incident and the violations that followed might have been avoided," said James Mulligan, OSHA area director. "The employers in this case exposed employees to the immediate hazard of structural collapse and the potential long-term consequences of asbestos exposure.” 


Eight Citations Issued

In the South Boston accident, OSHA issued eight citations to NorthStar, three categorized as “willful,” and four labeled “serious.”

The firm failed to conduct an engineering study on what would happen during demolition to the walls, floors and other parts of the structure. It also failed to “conspicuously post the safe weight load limit on the mezzanine floor where demolition and asbestos debris was being stored,” or to train employees to spot and “avoid collapse, struck-by and crushing hazards,” OSHA contends.

NorthStar also did not remove asbestos waste at the end of the shift, nor did it appoint a “designated competent person” to inspect, limit access and otherwise oversee an “asbestos containment area” at the defunct power plant, federal safety regulators say.

For its part, Suffolk faces two “willful” and three “serious” citations.

The contractor did not have a plan in place to deal with a potential collapse of the mezzanine, nor did it “conspicuously post” what the safe weight load limit was on the floor, according to OSHA.

Suffolk also failed to inspect and adequately oversee NorthStar’s work in the asbestos containment area. That included failing to ensure employees in those areas were wearing respirators and did not have facial hair that prevented the sealing of the facepiece and/or interfered with valve function, OSHA said.

Both contractors have 15 business days to either comply, contest the findings, or request an “informal conference” with OSHA, the agency said.

The independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission hears appeals of OSHA penalties.

“We will continue to work closely with the demolition contractor NorthStar and all parties involved in this project to maintain the highest level of safety on the jobsite,” Suffolk said in a statement.

The proposed OSHA penalties are just the latest major disciplinary action taken by the federal safety agency in the last year against Boston area contractors.

In September, OSHA proposed a $1.2 million penalty against a pair of contractors for alleged safety violations surrounding a fatal accident last spring during demolition work on the Government Center garage.

OSHA is also continuing to push for more than $2 million in penalties against a contractor involved in a February 2021 downtown Boston accident that killed two workers.