OSHA Report Alleges Multiple Failures Leading to Miami Bridge Collapse

Nancy Grover

Washington, DC (WorkersCompensation.com) – Structural design deficiencies, failure to recognize the magnitude of widening cracks, oversights by the design build contractor, and failure to close a Miami street underneath a bridge are just a few of the problems that contributed to the deaths of one employee and five motorists and the permanent disability of another employee when the structure collapsed last year, according to a new report. The OSHA document details a series of failed actions that led to the tragedy.

The pedestrian bridge was under construction to connect the Florida International University’s Miami campus with the City of Sweetwater when it collapsed on March 15, 2018. Motorists waiting at a traffic light underneath the bridge were crushed.

Officials from OSHA’s Fort Lauderdale Area Office worked with a forensic structural engineer from the agency’s Directorate of Construction, Office of Engineering Services “to determine the cause of the collapse and whether industry or OSHA standards were violated.”

The report lays blame on many parties involved, including FIU and the Florida Department of Transportation, both of which it said did not demand an independent review of the conclusions by the engineer of record on the morning of the collapse.

Among the report’s ‘conclusions’ are:

  • FIGG Bridge Engineers (FIGG), the Engineer of Record (EOR), failed to recognize that the bridge was in danger of collapsing when it inspected it hours before the collapse … The bridge had structural design deficiencies that contributed to the collapse during construction stage III. The cracks on the bridge occurred due to deficient structural design.
  • The construction engineer and inspector, Bolton Perez and Associates, Inc. (BPA) failed to recognize that the bridge was in danger of collapsing, and did not recommend to FIU, Manilla Construction Management Inc. (MCM, the design-build contractor) or others to close the street and shore the bridge, regardless of the opinion held by the EOR.
  • MCM, deferred to the decision of EOR and failed to exercise its own independent professional judgement, as a constructor of the bridge, to close the traffic on SW 8th Street until the cause of the cracks were conclusively determined by EOR and peer reviewed.
  • The consultant retained by EOR to conduct independent peer review of the EOR’s design, as per FDOT requirements, did not check the structural integrity of the bridge under different construction stages, a violation of the FDOT requirements.
  • EOR failed to provide construction documents to Louis Berger, an engineering consultant, at 30%, 60% and 90% of completion of construction documents, in accordance with the FDOT requirements.
  • EOR should have known that the consultant who conducted the peer review did not check the structural design of the truss design at stage III, as required by FDOT, meriting extra safety precautions by EOR.

But FIGG, the EOR issued a statement disputing the findings.

“The OSHA FIU Pedestrian Bridge report is factually inaccurate and incomplete, and includes errors and flawed analyses. It does not include an evaluation of many important factors pertinent to the construction process leading up to the accident. Additionally, it has not been reviewed by any other entities involved in the accident investigation. FIGG disagrees with the conclusions in the OSHA report,” FIGG’s statement said. “At this juncture, as a party member to the NTSB process, we are not able to elaborate further, but at the appropriate time the facts and the truth will be released to the public.”

The report says workers had expressed concerns about the widening cracks on the bridge span soon after it was lifted into place five days before the collapse. One worker, Kevin Hanson, was mentioned in the report as texting his boss to say that “it cracked like hell,” and that he was “visibly disturbed.” Hanson was severely injured in the collapse.

Hanson’s attorney was quoted in the Miami Herald as saying he found the findings in the report “’appalling’ in their detail and scope.”

Last September, OSHA cited five companies for safety violations and fined them $86,658 in proposed penalties. Last month a federal bankruptcy judge approved a $42 million insurance settlement for the victims or their survivors, during proceedings for MCM’s bankruptcy. FIU forfeited its $5 million insurance payment, with the requirement it go to the victims.

Meanwhile, the National Transportation Safety Board is also investigating the tragedy and is expected to release its findings late this year or early next.

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