News Briefs: Contractors Hit With $300,000 in Fines

In this week's news, two construction companies were fined for exposing workers to hazards, preparations for Bertha to begin tunneling again are underway and Caterpillar announces layoffs
News Briefs: Contractors Hit With $300,000 in Fines

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Contractors Hit With $300,000 in Fines

Cal/OSHA cited two California construction companies more than $300,000 for exposing workers to cave-in hazards at a residential construction site and violating the order to stop work until the unsafe excavation was properly addressed.

During a site inspection on April 20, Cal/OSHA investigators discovered 11-foot unshored walls and issued a stop-work order to address the hazard. Three weeks later, Cal/OSHA learned the employers sent workers back to the site, unsafe excavation and stop-work order notwithstanding.

“Cal/OSHA issues stop-work orders when there’s evidence of an imminent hazard to workers,” says Cal/OSHA Chief Juliann Sum. “The employers’ blatant refusal to protect their workers from a cave-in hazard put their employees’ lives at risk.”

EMI Design & Construction was cited for 10 workplace safety violations, including two willful and three serious in nature, resulting in proposed penalties of $164,465. Salt Light Investments had three workplace safety violations, including two willful in nature, with proposed penalties of $140,375.

WSDOT Files Lawsuit Against Seattle Tunnel Partners

The Washington State Department of Transportation has filed a lawsuit against Seattle Tunnel Partners (STP), the group creating the Alaskan Way Viaduct replacement tunnel with the Bertha drilling machine.

The suit was prompted by recent court filings by STP and their insurance companies, and comes after the announcement that WSDOT says it expects to lose $78 million because Bertha broke down. The $78 million price tag stems from extra spending on administrators, engineers, consulting firms and office space due to continuing problems with the Bertha tunnel-boring machine and a nearly two-year delay. 

Though the suit has been filed, WSDOT said it is committed to working with STP to complete the tunnel project.

Bertha Set to Begin Tunneling Again

After almost two years, the world’s largest tunnel-boring machine, Bertha, is nearly ready to continue with the 1.7-mile-long Alaskan Way Viaduct replacement tunnel.

The Washington State Department of Transportation announced Oct. 14 that Seattle Tunnel Partners would begin doing jet grouting — inject a mix of water and cement into the ground to create a column 20 to 40 feet below the surface — to stabilize the ground above where Bertha will be working.

Bertha shut down in January 2014 when it became clogged with debris about a tenth of the way into the project, and is scheduled to resume drilling Nov. 23.

Reduced Demand Leads to Layoffs, Reduced Hours for Caterpillar Employees

Two Caterpillar manufacturing facilities in Texas began operating at reduced production hours on Oct. 19 after 30 employees were laid off. The company will continue with that schedule through the end of the year.

The Texas layoffs and reduced production schedule come on the heels of an announcement in late September of cost reduction initiatives and the elimination of 10,000 jobs throughout the company due to reduced demand.

“In addition to our recently announced cost reduction and restructuring actions, Caterpillar must continue to align production with demand,” company spokeswoman Rachel Potts says. “We recognize that this news — like other announcements we’ve made — is hard for our talented and dedicated employees, but is necessary in the current environment.”


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