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December 23, 2014 at 11:13 AM

520 pontoon contractors fined $170K for crane violations


A 13,000-pound counterweight snapped off its cable while being lowered from a crane, nearly hitting two workers in the Highway 520 pontoon construction yard at Grays Harbor, state investigators learned in June.

That incident, captured on video, led to a citation and $170,500 in fines against the Kiewit General Joint Venture, the state Department of Labor & Industries announced Tuesday.

The state alleges the contractors disregarded safety bulletins from the crane manufacturer, Potain, about how to deal with flawed lifting lugs. Potain urged clients to employ “alternate rigging on the counterweight,” the state said. Kiewit General used its own fastening method that wasn’t approved by the manufacturer, L&I alleged.

A slab-shaped counterweight was being lowered by crane when a lug broke, and the load fell several feet, where it could have struck two workers, the citation said.

According to the company, a standard crawler crane was removing and lowering the counterweight during dissasembly of a tower crane, when the accident happened.

In all, seven workers were at risk of injury as a result of crane violations, L&I says. There were three willful and one serious violation, the agency announced. Most violations were corrected, and one more remains to be corrected by Jan. 20, says the citation, dated Dec. 18.

Kiewit General has 15 business days to appeal.

Kiewit spokesman Bob Kula responded in a statement: “At our company, nothing is more important than the safety of those working on our job sites and the public around us. Ultimately, the crane counterweight incident occurred under Kiewit-General’s watch — and we take responsibility for the safety of everyone working on this project.”

The company says it immediately investigated and cooperated with L&I, and changed its procedures. However, it disagrees with the state calling three violations “willful,” and Kiewit is considering whether to contest the citation.

Kiewit General is now building the last three of the floating bridge’s 23 giant pontoons at the Port of Grays Harbor, and is due to finish in early 2015.

The first four pontoons contained cracks and had to be repaired, primarily because of state Department of Transportation design errors, causing an estimated $208 million in remedial work and delays. Subsequent pontoons have been redesigned and built satisfactorily.

A new six-lane floating bridge is to open in 2016, followed by a fixed westbound segment from Madison Park to the Seattle shore a year later. The Seattle section of Highway 520, including a new Portage Bay Bridge, is currently unfunded.





Comments | More in Traffic & Transit | Topics: Highway 520 Bridge, Labor & Industries, pontoons


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