Fix the pumps

Friday, October 27, 2006

Results from yesterday's post

Updated 11/2/06, see below

Yesterday afternoon, this article popped up on the New Orleans CityBusiness website. It would seem my post yesterday about fall protection certainly made an impact beyond the twenty one visits to this site by the Corps since the post went up, not to mention the six visits by Boh Brothers and the visit by OSHA as well.

Here's the relevant quotes:
"The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers contractors are violating federal law that requires workers on tall structures to be protected from falling. The unnamed contractor or contractors could be penalized, Corps officials said today"
"'Based on those photos, there is a safety violation. They should have been wearing the protective harnesses and they weren't,' said Brett Herr, a Corps senior project manager. Corps officials will meet Friday to 'resolve the problem,' Herr said. 'It will be addressed.' Herr said he did not have names of the involved workers, company or companies readily available. 'If the violation was severe enough there is a chance that they could be shut down,' he said."

Let me make one thing perfectly clear: I am NOT interested in shutting down the 17th Street Canal job. I am, however, very interested in having the job done safely. Nobody's life or injured body is worth any flood control structure, even one as important as the one at 17th Street.

That said, I would like to point out two additional facts:

1) The fall protection violations are not confined to 17th Street. Here's a picture of workmen at Orleans Avenue on October 11th (they are highlighted in the white box):

And the area of the box blown up:

Here's a detail from another photo at the same time:

These workers are not utilizing fall protection either.

2) When the Corps was running the pump tests on October 11th, I caught this photo of three welders without fall protection on the east side of the canal. You saw this picture in the post yesterday.

I also snapped this previously unpublished picture, which features one of the welders, as well as at least four persons who appeared to be supervisors of some sort:

Here's an enlargement of the area inside the white box:

The Corps would not test the pumps without having one of their employees there to witness the test. When I was there on the 11th, I couldn't make out who was with the Corps and who was with Boh Brothers. However, there were people crawling all over the west side of the site watching the pumps and the discharge pipe. I guarantee at least one of them was a Corps worker (probably one of the men in the above photo). Thus, it is not only the contractor, Boh Brothers, who missed the obvious safety violations, it is also the Corps. It makes one wonder how long they've been turning a blind eye to these sorts of things, because there are supposed to be Corps project managers or construction managers on site every day.

By the way, keep those thoughts in mind as you read the following email that I received this morning from Brigadier General Robert Crear, Commanding General of the Mississippi Valley Division:

Subject: RE: OSHA violations at 17th Street closure site
Date: Fri, 27 Oct 2006 10:28:53 -0500
From: "Crear, Robert BG MVD"
To: "Matt McBride",, "Starkel, Murray P LTC MVN", "Bedey, Jeffrey A COL NWO", "StGermain, James J MVN", "Gilmore, Christophor E MVN", "Breerwood, Gregory E MVN", "Baumy, Walter O MVN",, "Bleakley, Albert M COL MVD", "Sills, David W MVD", "Allen, Dianne MVN"


Thank you for bringing this to our attention, rest assured we will take corrective action. Safety of government and contractor employees is one of our top priorities.


Brigadier General Robert Crear
Commanding General, US Army Engineer Division, Mississippi Valley
President, Mississippi River Commission
PO Box 80 Vicksburg, MS 39181

Update, 11/2/06
What a shock! The Corps New Orleans District cleared Boh Brothers of any safety violations, according to this item in New Orleans CityBusiness.

So nothing bad was happening in those photos, right? That is, it's okay to not be tied off when you're over 18 feet of water or twenty feet in the air?

Well, not really...
"In light of the investigation, the Corps is making additional safety requests, [Corps safety official Sherry] Scott said. If a worker is over water, safety lines will be required, she said. Also, vertical safety lines will be required for workers on pipe bridges, she said."

Wink, wink, nod, nod...

Oddly, the CityBusiness print edition of this article didn't include the paragraph above, or mention of where the photos were published.


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