Multiple contractors fined for employee death, employees' injuries in FIU bridge collapse

5 companies collectively fined for more than $86,000

By Amanda Batchelor - Senior Digital Editor, Sanela Sabovic - Reporter

MIAMI-DADE COUNTY, Fla. - The U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration fined multiple contractors Friday for safety violations after one employee died and five other employees sustained serious injuries when a pedestrian bridge at Florida International University's main campus collapsed. 

Six people were killed in the March 15 collapse, but the companies are only facing fines for the injuries of their workers and the death of VSL Structural Technologies employee Navarro Brown. 

OSHA officials said in a news release Tuesday that the five companies collectively received seven violations, totaling $86,658 in proposed penalties.

The companies cited include Figg Bridge Engineers Inc., a civil and structural engineering company; Network Engineering Services Inc. (doing business as Bolton Perez & Assoc.), a construction engineering and inspection firm; Structural Technologies LLC (doing business as Structural Technologies/VSL), specializing in post-tensioning in bridges and buildings; Munilla Construction Management LLC, a bridge and building construction company; and The Structural Group of South Florida Inc., a contractor specializing in concrete formwork. 

According to a news release, OSHA's investigation determined that the companies failed to protect their workers when indications of a potential bridge collapse were evident.

According to the National Transportation Safety Board, photos of large, deep cracks in the bridge were taken the same day a phone call was made by an engineer to a Florida Department of Transportation employee about the cracks. 

Denney Pate, with FIGG Bridge Engineers, called FDOT to report the cracking on the bridge over busy Southwest Eighth Street, but left a voicemail saying it didn't appear to be much of a concern. 

"We've taken a look at it and, uh, obviously some repairs or whatever will have to be done, but from a safety perspective, we don't see that there's any issue there. So we're not concerned about it, from that perspective," Pate said. 

Neither Pate nor Figg Engineers representatives in Tallahassee could say why Pate thought it wasn't a concern because the NTSB has ordered all entities involved in the bridge construction to not speak publicly during the investigation.

OSHA said violations included exposing employees to crushing and fall hazards and allowing multiple employees to connect to an improperly installed lifeline.  

"Collectively, these employers failed to take appropriate action and provide the necessary protections to their employees while they were working on the bridge on the day it collapsed," OSHA Regional Administrator Kurt A. Petermeyer said in a statement.  

FIU and FIGG Bridge Engineers declined to comment on the citations, however an MCM representative said the company "views OSHA's action as a positive first step toward understanding the root cause of this tragic accident." 

"While MCM is still reviewing the OSHA fall protection citation, it is noteworthy that OSHA has not claimed that the cited conditions had anything to do with the FIU bridge span's failure," MCM representative Mike Hernandez said in a statement.   

According to the news release, the companies have 15 business days from receipt of the citations and proposed penalties to comply, request an informal conference with OSHA's area director or contest the findings before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.

As for the NTSB's investigation, NTSB officials have interviewed numerous people involved in the bridge construction, but has not yet concluded its investigation into what caused the bridge to collapse.

 

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