So, do we really need a reminder from Paula Hammond, secretary of the Washington State Department of Transportation, that there’s no alcoholic drinking allowed on the job? Apparently (shall we say allegedly?), if you work for Kiewit-General-Mason you most definitely do. And you may need some counseling too, paid for by Kiewit.

Last week, hidden cameras caught workers in Bellevue, Wash., at the contractor-leased offices for those working on the State Route 520 bridge replacement project—specifically those on the $587 million eastside widening—with beer cans on desks, cases of beer being brought into the office and a refrigerator in the office full of the contraband.

KOMO-TV broke the story, showing employees with beers in hand on the video.

For the already tight-lipped Kiewit, the public relations debacle has turned into a safety issue that has Hammond sending warning letters and the state Department of Labor and Industries thinking of launching an investigation. Kiewit, for its part, claims safety is important and assures the public that drinking on the job violates company policy. Kiewit has has already started its own investigation and is also “scheduling training events with counselors to discuss alcohol issues with employees.”

Needless to say, drinking on the job is also against state law.

While WSDOT was quick to point out that the 35 DOT workers located in the same office park weren’t associated with drinking, there’s still not assurance of how widespread—or limited—the drinking onsite really was. KOMO quotes an unnamed source saying that people in the office drank beer during work almost every day.

But where does a culture that allows such behavior originate? When does it become okay for a group of workers to discard company rules, state law and basic common sense and thumb its nose at an entire state by creating their own set of rules on a (publicly funded, I might add) project?

Then comes the question: How do we view Kiewit after a move like this? A national power in the construction world and a mainstay in bridge construction in Washington, Kiewit’s safety record is actually impressive in the Evergreen State. With a workforce the size of Kiewit’s, is this simply a case of a bad apple (or two or three) spoiling an entire bunch? Should we be concerned about Kiewit at other sites if this culture is allowed to perpetuate in Bellevue?

For now, the investigations have been launched, the warning letters have been sent to all SR 520 contractors and DOT workers and everyone is now well aware that you aren’t supposed to drink on the job, although I’m still not quite sure how folks didn’t already know that. But, alas, I don’t work in a construction office in Bellevue, so maybe I’m just out of the loop. 

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