PORTLAND, Ore. -- A construction company has been fined $189,000 for safety violations related to an incident on February 8 in which two construction workers were seriously injured while working at the Ross Island Bridge.
Abhe & Svoboda Inc. were fined for nine safety violations by the Oregon Occupational Safety and Health Division. Oregon OSHA said the violations were for failing to protect workers from falls that could seriously injure or kill them.
One of the workers fell about 37 feet from a suspended scaffolding system and landed on the other worker who was standing on the lower platform. Portland Fire & Rescue used a fire truck ladder to lower the two workers safely to the ground. Both workers survived, but suffered multiple injuries.
Two of the violations were cited as willful, meaning the employer intentionally or knowingly let the violation occur. A willful violation carries a legal maximum penalty of $70,000. The other seven violations were cited as serious, with a maximum fine of $7,000.
During the investigation into the incident, the corporate safety manager for the Abhe & Svobody Inc., a Minnesota-based company, dismissed Oregon's workplace safety rules, saying they change too often.
Oregon OSHA Administrator Michael Wood said there is no excuse for ignoring workplace safety rules.
"Each and every year, falls are one of the major sources of serious injury and death in Oregon workplaces," Wood said. "There is never a good reason to ignore the need to protect workers from such hazards. Yet, this employer brushed off time-tested fall protection rules that are designed to prevent injuries or deaths."
The worker who fell wasn't protected by a fall protection system, which is a requirement by Oregon OSHA rules. There were a total of eight workers exposed to this danger on the day the accident occurred.
The remaining violations, according to a press release from the Oregon Department of Consumer and Business Services:
- The company failed to provide proper access to work areas, forcing employees to climb up or down the scaffolding and bridge structure, and to sidestep or step over holes ranging in size from 3 inches to 24 inches
- The company failed to construct and install the scaffolding system according to the minimum bracing requirements, as outlined by professional specifications
- Scaffolds and related components were not set up, dismantled, and moved under the direction of a competent person
- Employees lacked rest platforms while climbing 37-foot ladders
- The company failed to ensure that employees had a work platform that was at least 18 inches wide
- Anchorages for fall protection equipment were not installed or used under the supervision of a competent person
- Scaffolds were not inspected for visible defects before each work shift by a competent person
- A makeshift device -- a wooden step stool -- was used on platforms to increase the working height of employees