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Seattle tunnel subcontractor fined over worker injuries

Martha Bellisle Associated Press

SEATTLE – Washington state safety regulators issued two citations and a $2,050 fine against the subcontractor overseeing workers injured when a wall in the north portal of the Seattle tunnel project collapsed.

Four ironworkers fell Feb. 12, including one who was hospitalized after being seriously hurt.

Central Steel Inc. was cited for failing to ensure that all protruding rebar pieces were protected to prevent possible impaling if a worker were to fall on the reinforcing bars, according to the Department of Labor and Industries. Inspectors found the dangerous rebar setup while inspecting the site of the accident.

The April 9 citation said “the injuries that occur when a worker is impaled on rebar are serious and would require hospitalization and possibly result in serious permanent disability.” That violation came with a $1,000 fine.

A second citation focused on the cause of the accident. It said Central Steel failed to make sure its employees “had significantly tied back the rebar curtain, which supported their weight, as they performed a reinforcing wall installation.” The company was fined $1,050 for that violation.

A message left with the Lake Stevens-based Central Steel Monday was not immediately returned. Elaine Fischer, spokeswoman for Labor and Industries, said the agency received an appeal from Central Steel on April 15.

Laura Newborn, spokeswoman for the Washington Department of Transportation, declined to comment and referred questions to the safety regulators.

Chris Dixon, project manager of Seattle Tunnel Partners, the company building the tunnel, said the penalty was against a subcontractor and not his group.

Seattle Tunnel Partners won the contract to design and build a tunnel under downtown Seattle, to replace the Alaskan Way Viaduct that was damaged in a 2001 earthquake. Bertha, the tunnel boring machine, was damaged and stopped working in December 2013, but work has continued on other sections of the tunnel.

The ironworkers were installing rebar for a concrete wall on the State Route 99 north portal when the accident occurred.

One worker suffered a laceration of his arm, chipped vertebrae, bruised kidney, broken ribs, a strained back and collapsed lung, according to a report by a Seattle Tunnel Partners health and safety manager acquired by the Associated Press through a public records request. He was hospitalized for an unknown period of time.

The other men weren’t seriously hurt, including one who strained his back.

The report said the men fell when a lag bolt pulled free from a wood board. The weight of the men stressed adjacent lag screws “due to inconsistent spacing of the vertical rebar on the northeast section of the wall.”

State safety inspectors said the violations were corrected.

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