By BRADEN LAMMERS
A step was taken Monday to ensure the Ohio River Bridges Project is safe for its workers.
The Kentucky Labor Cabinet, Kentucky Transportation Cabinet and the bridges’ contractors signed a Construction Partnership Program agreement designed to ensure the safety of the workers on both portions of the plan to build a downtown bridge, east-end bridge and rebuild Spaghetti Junction. But the most noticeable omission from the agreement was the absence of Kentucky’s partnering state.
Indiana officials were not in attendance at the signing of the agreement, nor did they sign a similar agreement, because of an ongoing lawsuit between Walsh and Indiana over a death on another transportation project.
Shetrice Mosley, Indiana Department of Labor spokesperson, said the state will not enter into a construction partnership agreement with a company while there is an open investigation involving the contractor.
“Indiana OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) actually has an open investigation on a fatality with Walsh,” Mosley said. “Until that is resolved we cannot enter into that type of partnership.”
Roger Cox died several days after an accident that occurred on April 30, 2012, during the construction of the Milton-Madison Bridge. According to the safety order issued by Indiana OSHA three serious violations were issued as a result of the accident related to operating an aerial lift.
Another safety order was issued against Walsh Construction Co. on April 16, 2012, after a construction worker, David Anderson, was struck by an excavator on the westbound ramp of Interstate 465 and Allisonville Road and killed.
Mosley said a settlement had been reached in the Allisonville incident.
No agreement has been reached for the safety order issued related to the Milton-Madison Bridge project accident and the safety order has been appealed by Walsh Construction.
Mosley said the state is required by law to investigate a fatality or catastrophe and safety orders are issued because of a violation of an OSHA requirement. However, if the investigation were to be settled with Walsh Construction, Indiana OSHA would be open to considering any type of partnership, she added.
Matthew Carney, project senior safety manager for the Walsh WVB on the east-end portion of the project, said he has been working with Indiana about entering into an agreement, but the ongoing litigation has kept them from signing a similar partnership as was signed with Kentucky.
“We left it open and the agreement allows for Indiana’s participation when that’s resolved,” said Neil Ratterman, project senior safety manager for Walsh Construction on the downtown portion of the project.
According to the agreement signed Monday, the construction partnership program will track the number of hazards identified by each contractor on a quarterly basis and compile the information annually. It will also track training provided to Walsh and the visits performed by the division of compliance. The partnership will last for the duration of the project, according to the agreement.
It will also allow Kentucky’s Occupational Safety and Health Division of Compliance to visit the construction site without notice and ensure safety on the site.
“Safety is absolutely one of the most important elements of the project,” Mike Hancock, Kentucky Transportation Cabinet secretary, said at the signing of the agreement at the Madrid Building in Louisville. “We cannot over-state the importance of the construction partnership. Through this partnership we can provide a safe work environment for everyone by sharing that we work as a team to identify or resolve any worker safety issues that pop up.”
Hancock added the agreement allows inspectors can come out anytime and for the entities to work together to ensure the safety of the construction site together.
“It’s not about ‘gotcha,’ it’s about how do we solve this,” he said.
Kimberlee Perry, director of the Kentucky Labor Cabinet, said the inspections under the partnership agreement will occur on all portions of the project, including in Indiana.
“Technically we do not have jurisdiction on the Indiana side, of course; however, we’re still going to work with Walsh,” she said. “We’re covering the entire project from coast to coast.”
The agreement outlines that if Indiana inspectors are on-site while Kentucky inspectors are on the same portion of the project, Kentucky’s work would cease and would not start back up until Indiana has completed its investigation.
Rob Morphonios, project director for WVB east-end partners, said the company is certainly willing to partner with Indiana.
“They still have the right to come out and inspect our project at any time,” Morphonios said.
The next hearing with Walsh concering the safety order issued on the Milton-Madison project is scheduled for next month.