The employers of a worker killed on a light rail tunnel project in San Francisco failed to identify potential hazards and to train workers on safety procedures, according to Cal/OSHA, which has issued $65,300 in penalties in the fatality.

How it happened

The incident occurred last August, while employees were using heavy equipment and tools to work in and around the tunnel. One worker was operating a rail crane to push two flat railcars loaded with equipment into the tunnel. The crane’s boom was in an upward vertical position when it struck an overhead steel beam. The beam was dislodged from its support brackets and fell approximately 13 feet, fatally crushing an employee walking nearby.

A Cal/OSHA investigation determined that the two contractors involved in the joint venture, Shimmick Construction Co., Inc. of Oakland and Con-Quest Contractors Inc. of San Francisco, did not identify the potential hazards presented by pushing two loaded flat railcars into the tunnel and did not control the crane’s travel to avoid collisions. Investigators discovered the crane operators had not been trained to safely operate the equipment, and workers had not been trained on safe procedures when the crane was being operated near them.

The Twin Peaks Tunnel Rehabilitation & Rail Replacement project, which included refurbishing infrastructure, replacing rails and upgrading signal systems and other parts of the over 100-year-old tunnel.

Tunnel hazards are many

“Hazards in tunnel construction work can include cave-ins, falling objects and breathable airborne contaminants,” said Cal/OSHA Chief Juliann Sum. “Employers must identify and evaluate the particular hazards in their workplace and train employees on safe work practices to avoid injury, illness or even death.”

Cal/OSHA cited the joint venture for two serious and two serious accident-related violations. The serious accident-related violations were cited for the employer’s failure to implement an effective injury and illness prevention plan and failure to control the crane while it was moving. The serious citations were issued for violations related to the employer’s failure to safely transport workers while in the tunnel.