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East Side Access Contractor Fined $48K After Two Hurt by Runaway Rail Car

By Amy Zimmer | March 23, 2012 4:05pm

MANHATTAN — The contractor for the MTA's East Side Access tunnel project was fined $48,000 after two workers were injured when a runaway rail car struck their aerial lift in October and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration found 11 alleged serious violations, the federal watchdog agency announced Friday.

The site, run by Dragados USA-Judlau JV, had an array of hazards, OSHA officials said.

A safety chain on the rail car had not been attached to prevent it from rolling away while it was being disconnected on Oct. 15. The wheels had not been chocked, either.

The workers were at risk of being struck by the runaway car, OSHA officials determined. The workers in the lift had no radio or watch person to alert them of a runaway car, either, and the car had no lights to warn of its approach.

"Underground construction is essential but dangerous work. It’s also essential that effective worker safeguards are in place and in use at all times," Kay Gee, OSHA’s area director in Manhattan, said in a statement. "That was not the case here."

A violation is considered serious when there is "substantial probability that death or serious physical harm could result from a hazard about which the employer knew or should have known," according to OSHA.

Gee said the accident could have been avoided if Dragados had followed proper safety procedures, inspections and training.

OSHA also found other possible dangers, including damaged guardrails on the aerial life, a damaged ladder cage and unprotected steel rods sticking out of tunnel floors and walls.

"We have been working with the contractor to address the issues raised by OSHA and more broadly to improve workers’ overall safety on the East Side Access project," an MTA spokesman said. "The contractor has taken steps over the last several months to make safety an even higher priority in their work."

Dragados did not immediately respond for comment, but MTA officials said the contractor has begun holding weekly meetings with workers, foremen and supervisors to discuss safety issues and training.

OSHA officials said the contractor has 15 business days to comply or contest the findings.

A construction worker was struck and killed by concrete that fell on him at the site in November.

The $7.4 billion East Side Access project, being built underneath Manhattan and Queens, will connect the Long Island Rail Road to Grand Central Terminal. It will feature eight new station tunnels when it's finished, which is expected to be in 2018, according to reports.