OSHA: Bryant collapse was preventable; contractor cited

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SMITHFIELD, R.I. (WPRI) — Federal inspectors have completed their investigation into the collapse of a steel structure at Bryant University last September, finding the incident could have been prevented.

Six workers were injured on the morning of Sept. 1 when the structure – which was to become an indoor athletics facility – came tumbling down. Police on scene said some of the workers were on top of the 30-foot structure when they fell and became trapped under metal beams.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) launched an immediate investigation, which found the contractor failed to follow the manufacturer’s plans and install adequate bracing to ensure the framework’s structural stability, leading to the collapse.

The contractor, Barnes Building & Management Group, has been cited for one willful and one serious violation of workplace safety standards and OSHA proposed fines totaling $59,290. The company has 15 days to comply, according to OSHA.

Following the collapse, the Target 12 Investigators discovered Barnes was previously fined for a fall at a construction site that left a Massachusetts man impaled on a metal bar.

In response to the recent citations, the Weymouth-based company issued the following statement:

Barnes Buildings & Management Group, Inc. is an industry leader and award-winning steel contractor whom has prided itself on providing quality building projects throughout New England for the past twenty years. We have been able to achieve this level of success by placing a premium on safety. We have safely erected 100’s of these types of structures consistently in a manner that exceeds the requirements of the Occupational Safety & Health Act (OSH Act) and without incident. We continuously invest thousands of dollars on independent safety consultants to assist in training, and also monitor our employees by conducting unannounced safety audits of our worksites to ensure that everybody (including other trades) are working safely. The accident at Bryant University was not the result of Barnes Buildings violating the law. We were erecting the structure according to the manufacturers plans, our approved erection plan and in a manner that met industry standard, and should have been more than sufficient to handle the loads that were present on the day of the collapse. Ironically, it was our stringent safety protocols and training that saved the lives of our employee’s on site that day. We find the two citations issued by OSHA surprising and unwarranted. We will be working with OSHA in the weeks to come in an attempt to resolve this dispute.”

OSHA said it’s scheduled to meet with the company next week.

AZ Corporation, the construction management company involved with the project, has had no major safety violations within the last five years, according to OSHA’s safety records.

OSHA reminds the public they can file a complaint or report incidents or imminent danger in the workplace by calling its toll-free hotline at 800-321-OSHA (6742) or the agency’s Providence office at (401) 528-4669.

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