The collapse of the Baltimore bridge raises concerns about security and communication measures | World News | Trending Viral hub


Moments before the Dali freighter slammed into the Francis Scott Key Bridge, causing it to collapse into the water, a burst of urgent warnings blared over radios and allowed police to block traffic from reaching the span, likely saving lives.

But those warnings apparently did not reach the six construction workers who died in the Baltimore bridge collapse last week. Their deaths have raised questions about whether the construction company took proper precautions, including keeping a safety boat nearby that could have warned them at least seconds before impact.

Federal regulations require construction companies to have these boats, commonly known as skiffs, on hand when crews work on waterways, safety experts told The Associated Press. There is no indication that the construction company, Brawner Builders, had a rescue boat in the water or ready to be launched when the bridge fell.

If you’re working on a bridge like that, the standard interpretation gives you no choice, said Janine McCartney, a safety engineer with HHC Safety Engineering Services Inc. The skiff is required, period.

Coast Guard representatives and other officials said they were not aware of any Brawner boats in the water at the time of the March 26 collapse. And satellite images from the time of the collapse appeared to show no boats on the river near the bridge.

Even if the workers had been warned that the giant ship was about to crash, it is unclear whether they would have had enough time to get to safety.

Archived recordings from the bridge maintenance radio channel from that morning include only a minor exchange between two maintenance workers about the approaching ship, although it is unclear whether either of them were on or near the span at the time. . In the exchange, one man in a dull voice seemed to ask what was going on, and the other responded: They’re just disrupting traffic because a boat lost its way, that’s all. The bridge collapsed less than 30 seconds later.

But if a security boat had been present, experts said, it could have used a marine radio and needed walkie-talkies to warn construction workers about the Dali’s distress calls, possibly giving them a chance to act. Authorities say a construction inspector was able to run to a section of the bridge that did not collapse, although it is unknown what warning, if any, he received.

A representative for Brawner declined to comment for this article, saying the company is focused on caring for the families of workers, who were filling potholes on the bridge when it collapsed. Brawner has used safety skiffs to work on bridges in the past, according to a statement from a company executive that was part of a 2011 lawsuit.

Occupational Safety and Health Administration regulations say construction companies doing work on waterways must have at least one safety boat available. OSHA officials have said in rule interpretations over the years that the required boat can ensure quick rescue of employees who fall overboard, regardless of other precautions taken to prevent this from happening.

An OSHA spokesperson did not respond to repeated requests for clarification on that regulation.

Some states have rules clarifying that boats are not necessary under certain conditions, such as when the work being performed is contained within the railings of a bridge. But Maryland is not among them and requires that a safety boat be present when workers are on or near the water. A spokesperson for Maryland Occupational Safety and Health, which oversees compliance with federal labor regulations, declined to comment on the Key Bridge collapse or Brawner’s safety record, citing the open investigation into the tragedy.

Dennis O’Bryan, a maritime attorney, said he believes the skiff requirement remains in effect even when there is little risk of drowning unless the company obtains an exemption from the state.

If there was a skiff there, it would have heard the distress call and radioed for workers to get off the bridge, O’Bryan said. It is necessary to investigate whether the boat was there and, if not, why it was not.

O’Bryan does not represent any of the families of the workers who were on the Key Bridge when it collapsed. But in 2011, he represented a Brawner employee who was injured while operating a safety boat intended to monitor workers on a bridge. The lawsuit accused the company of failing to adequately staff the ship. It was settled for an undisclosed sum.

The AP requested a copy of the safety plan Brawner submitted for the Key Bridge project, which was among more than 25 contracts worth a total of more than $120 million that the state awarded the company over the past five years. The application was still being processed as of Tuesday.

Brawner has been cited three times for seven safety violations since 2018, including four citations for failing to provide adequate fall protection, OSHA online compliance records show. The company was fined about $11,000 in informal OSHA settlements.

Several project foremen interviewed by the AP said that despite OSHA’s strict interpretations, it is not uncommon for construction companies to forego the use of a safety skiff on jobs that do not pose an imminent drowning risk, and it is not clear when. regulation applies. . In the past decade, only one citation has been issued in Maryland during a bridge construction project for failure to provide a life-saving skiff, according to a review of OSHA records available online.

Some construction experts said a boat would not have made any difference because of the steep drop, the short time the crew had to react and the tons of steel and debris that made it incredibly difficult, even for trained rescuers, to locate and reach The missing. workers’ bodies.

You can have the most perfect security plan and security measures, and unless you have time to implement them, who knows, said Julio Palomo, president of the Laborers International Union of North America Local 11, which represents Maryland and other parts of the country. Washington, DC area. Would having that boat in the water have put more people in danger? We just don’t know.

Others, however, said a safety ship might have been more likely to issue a warning via a direct radio line to the crew, something companies could consider when drafting future safety plans in light of the ship’s collapse. Key Bridge.

Ryan Papariello, a safety and health specialist with the North American Workers’ Safety and Health Fund, said that in safety plans for bridge work, companies should consider including flotation devices and clear communication with the Coast Guard or anyone patrolling the water. . He also said future plans could include using specific loud noises to signal workers to evacuate.

Obviously this was not a foreseeable incident, Papariello said. Many of the contractors we see, and I don’t blame them, simply don’t have a valid rescue plan.

(Only the title and image of this report may have been modified by Business Standard staff; the rest of the content is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)


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