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For Immediate Release: June 18, 2013

Bridge Work To Make Innovative Use of Safety Device

Highland, NY - A personal alarm and additional emphasis on training and coordination will be among the new actions required as work on the Newburgh-Beacon Bridge north span repainting resumes this week, NYS Bridge Authority Executive Director Joseph Ruggiero said today.

“The Bridge Authority has an excellent safety record and, thankfully, neither recent incident resulted in a tragedy,” Ruggiero said.  “Now, we need to do everything we can to make sure it stays that way.”

Ruggiero added that the two accidents, the first on May 21st and the most recent on June 6th, were unrelated, however, both events remind us that “these are dangerous jobs in dangerous environments and that safety must be a constant emphasis for everyone involved.”

Working with the prime contractor for the repainting job, Kiska Construction, the Authority will require all workers in the containment system blasting paint off steel to have personal alarm devices.   These devices, used by some firefighters and corrections officers, will be configured to send an alert to work supervisors whenever a worker manually pushes an alert button, suffers a fall and is suspended by their safety harness or remains inactive for a very short period of time, between thirty seconds and two minutes depending on programming.

“We’re told that this is the first time these types of devices will be used within a painting containment cocoon on a bridge.  If the systems works as we think it will, this may become standard practice throughout the industry,” Ruggiero said.

Alp Baysal, Vice-President of Kiska Construction said, “Kiska is committed to working with the Bridge Authority to ensure a safe work environment on the Newburgh-Beacon Bridge; there is no higher priority.” 

Kiska will also require all workers to be re-trained in safety protocols and procedures, conduct an emergency rescue drill and put additional supervisors and personnel trained in safety procedures on the job site.

The Authority is also requesting a meeting with emergency responders to review the details of the two incidents.  The Authority will facilitate specialized training, particularly in suspension trauma related to these types of work environments, if needed.   

“This three-pronged approach - using technology for a new and innovative purpose; making sure that safety is first and foremost in everyone’s mind; and, working with our emergency
responders in the region to provide the best training and skills available -will provide for work to resume in a safe manner,” Ruggiero added. 

OSHA, the Federal Occupational Safety & Health Administration, is conducting its own investigation into both these incidents.  The Authority has provided OSHA with all material and information requested. Should OSHA make any additional recommendations, the Authority will review and address their report accordingly.

“Work of this nature is inherently dangerous.  Safety protocols are rigorous and specific.  Many of the people who work on these jobs are our friends and neighbors, member of local unions and employees of regional companies.  The NYS Bridge Authority takes great pride in our facilities and the fact that they were built and are now maintained by hard working and qualified residents of this region, and we will never compromise on safety,” Ruggiero said.

Incident Summaries

There were two separate and unrelated incidents on the north span of the Newburgh-Beacon Bridge involving contractor employees working on the lead abatement and re-painting of the steel. 

Kiska Construction of Long Island City, NY, is the main contractor for this job and is in the second year of a three-year contract.   There are no reports of any previous incidents of injuries on this job.

On June 6, a worker, Renato Amaral, was discovered suspended by his safety harness next to the steel on which he was conducting paint removal operations.  Mr. Amaral was suspended in the harness for an unknown period of time.  There were no failures of equipment, safety lines or harnesses or any other material cause for this incident.  The cause of this accident is currently unknown.

The Authority has been informed that Mr. Amaral has secured legal counsel and has not provided any information to the Authority or to Kiska Construction.

This incident took place inside the containment area under the deck of the bridge.  The containment area is similar to a cocoon with heavy plastic walls and a metal floor, designed to contain paint particles, dust, debris and the metal shot used to blast the paint off the steel.  It is a loud and dusty environment. 

All workers receive special training before working in this area, are required to wear hazmat suits with an air supply and to strictly follow all safety procedures.

Since the cause of the incident remains unknown, the Bridge Authority and Kiska Construction have developed the following additional actions:

  • All emergency plan protocols will be reviewed with all workers;
  • A rescue drill will be staged for better preparedness in emergency situations;
  • Workers will be retrained in the use of personal fall protection equipment;
  • Swing Stage Scaffolding will be utilized in addition to ‘spider’ baskets;
  • Inspections by qualified personnel will be increased; and,
  • Personnel inside the containment area who are vacuuming dust and paint chips will be trained to watch other workers.

In addition to the above actions, the PA-2000 Personal Alarm Device will be supplied to workers in the containment system who could potentially be isolated by noise and dust.  Manufactured by Grace Industries, Kiska expects to receive the new devices within six weeks.  Training on the new devices will be immediate and Kiska will deploy the new safety system as soon as it is available.

Until the devices are in place, additional supervisors and spotters will be used to make visual checks on workers within the containment area to ensure safety.

In a separate incident on May 21st, two workers slipped off the side of a steel sheet being installed as part of the containment system flooring.  This work is part of the cabling and rigging that allows for the construction of the containment system used to keep dust and paint particles out of the surrounding environment.

Both workers, Roberto Donato and Ishmael Carrasquillo, were protected by their safety harnesses, brought to safety by coworkers within a few minutes and walked off the bridge under their own power.   The safety harnesses worked as designed and prevented a tragedy.

The cause of the incident appears to be the lack of coordination between two crews working on two different parts of the containment system.  Multiple steel cables were loaded and unsupported, putting tension on the outside ropes used to temporarily support the steel cables.  Increased vertical loading in the immediate area, coupled with the removal of belly cables before permanent tie-ups were in place added to the issue.  In addition, manila or Polly-dacron ropes used for temporary support, failed during the installation.

In summary, while industry standard procedures appear to have been followed in specific instances, work on multiple areas at the same time did not take into account added stresses and the complexity of the task.

Kiska Construction and the Bridge Authority have agreed to the following changes in procedure and additional safety measures to prevent a recurrence of this incident:

  • All emergency plan protocols will be reviewed with all workers and a rescue drill will be staged for better preparedness in emergency situations;
  • Crews will be retrained in the platform installation procedures;
  • The Safespan Decking Installation Work Plan will be revised to require additional safety steps and the use of steel temporary support cables rather than synthetic rope;
  • Belly cables will receive additional support;
  • Load cells will be installed on selected tie-ups to monitor tension;
  • A foreman certified in the containment system decking and construction will be physically on site to coordinate and supervise all work at all times.

It is believed that these measures will prevent the situation that caused the incident on May 21.

Background Information
Bridge Owner:   New York State Bridge Authority
The NYS Bridge Authority (NYSBA) is a state authority and public benefit corporation created in 1932 to construct the Rip Van Winkle Bridge.  The Authority currently owns and operated the Bear Mountain, Newburgh-Beacon, Mid-Hudson, Kingston-Rhinecliff and Rip Van Winkle vehicular bridges and owns and is responsible for the structure of the Walkway Over the Hudson Poughkeepsie Railroad Bridge.
The NYS Bridge Authority finances it operations and maintenance through the collection of tolls and does not receive federal or state funds for these expenses. 

Contractor:         Kiska Construction, Inc., 10-34th 44th Drive, Long Island City, NY 11101

Sub-Contractor: Camabo Industries, Inc., 383 Oakley Avenue, Elmont, NY  11003

North-Span Repainting Contract
After a competitive bid process, Kiska Construction was awarded a $19.85 Million contract in April of 2012 to complete the lead abatement and repainting of the north span of the Newburgh-Beacon Bridge.  The contract is expected to cover a three year period, 2012-2014.

The north span of the Newburgh-Beacon Bridge was opened in 1963 as a two lane interstate highway.  Traffic quickly exceeded the bridge capacity and plans were initiated to build the south span which opened in 1980.  In 1983, the deck of the north span was re-built. 

Future Work on the Newburgh-Beacon Bridge
In 2013, after a competitive bidding process, NYSBA awarded a $93 million contract to Kiska Construction to re-build the entire deck of the south span of the Newburgh-Beacon Bridge.  This project will result in a new bridge deck that should last for at least another 30 years.  Planning and preliminary work has already begun on this project and road work is expected to commence later this year.
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