Tunnel death leads to $55,000 fine Oct 2011
Peter Kenyon, TunnelTalk
A Texas-based tunneling contractor has been cited for seven violations of workplace safety standards, including a repeat violation from another project, after one of its workers died in an accident in a raw water intake tunnel on the Eastside Water Supply Project in Webster, New York State.
Southland Contracting Inc of Fort Worth, Texas faces fines totaling $55,000 after being cited by the US Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) yesterday (October 12, 2011).
On April 11 this year (2011) Southland employees were working in a tunnel through bedrock under Lake Ontario as part of a $150 million Monroe County Water Authority drinking water project. The tunnel is part of a new raw water transmission system.
On the day of the accident a fuse blew after a piece of equipment was plugged into a branch circuit designed for temporary lighting, causing the lights in the tunnel to go out. In the darkness a 45-year-old employee who was operating a locomotive sustained a fatal head injury when he struck a conveyor on the TBM.

Fig 1. East Side Water Project

In a statement OSHA said: "OSHA found that the locomotive lacked bumper blocks to stop it as it approached the conveyor, it was pushing an unattached flat car, and it had not been inspected for modifications and repairs. Furthermore there was no effective means by which the workers in the tunnel could notify the locomotive operator of problems while he was in transit. Additionally the welding equipment was plugged into branch circuits meant only for temporary lighting and the site had not been inspected by a competent person prior to the work beginning."
Arthur Dube, OSHA's Area Director for western New York, said: "An unfortunate and unnecessary confluence of conditions placed the workers in the tunnel at risk of being struck, crushed or caught in and between the locomotive and the TBM. An inspection by a person with the knowledge to identify and the authority to eliminate these hazards could have prevented this worker's death."
The repeat violation, which exists when an employer has been cited previously for the same or similar violation of a regulation at any other facility in federal enforcement states within a five year period, relates to a similar hazard at the Southland's Batesville work site in Arkansas in 2010.
For the citations, Southland faces a total of $55,440 in proposed penalties. The company has 15 business days from receipt of its citations and proposed penalties to comply, meet with OSHA's area director or contest the findings before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.
The $150 million East Side Water Supply Project is intended to increase the reliability, energy efficiency and security of the MCWA's public water supply system by providing an alternate primary source of drinking water from Lake Ontario (Fig 1).
Currently half a million people are served by a treatment facility at Shoremont on the west side of the Genesee River. An investigation found that the capacity of the existing plant could not be increased, and that the best way to increase supply was to build a new facility.
The new East Side Water Treatment Plant in Webster, when complete, will pump an average of 35 million gallons of drinkable water per day. It is part of a project that includes 16,000ft of 54in to 60in diameter subsurface pipeline installed at depths ranging from 3ft to 10ft below ground level between the water treatment plant and the Lake Water Pump Station.
Additionally the project comprises a water intake crib on the bed of Lake Ontario in about 50ft of water, a 6,000ft long x 8ft diameter intake tunnel/pipe underneath the lake bottom and bored through bedrock between the crib and the pump station.
The project also includes a 200ft long x 8ft diameter riser well and 41,225ft of 54in diameter new water mains pipeline to connect the new treatment plant with MCWA's existing water transmission and distribution mains.


In reading this item the level of fine seems relatively low considering the loss of life, which is tragic under any circumstances. One wonders if the contractor knew fine levels were low and therefore permitted a superficial culture on safety and operation to exist.

Charles W. Egerton

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