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    Wednesday, May 22, 2024

    OSHA: Conn. company could have prevented pier collapse that injured two workers

    A Connecticut-based marine and heavy construction company is being blamed for a pier collapse last fall that sent five workers into the Acushnet River, injuring two of them, according to federal officials.

    Mohawk Northeast Inc. — which is based in Southington and has an office in Groton — faces a total of about $214,000 in penalties after Occupational Safety and Health Administration inspectors found that the company could have prevented the collapse of a 200-foot section of pier on Hervey Tichon Avenue in New Bedford, Mass., in October 2023, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.

    The marine and heavy construction contractor allegedly failed to determine if the pier’s walking and working surfaces had the strength and structural integrity to support employees safely with the weight of materials and equipment on it, according to OSHA.

    “Mohawk Northeast Inc. had a responsibility to determine if the pier was structurally sound and ensure other required safeguards before placing its employees and equipment on the pier, but it chose not to do so,” James Mulligan, OSHA area director in Braintree, Mass., said in a statement.

    “Proper planning and preparation could have prevented the pier’s collapse,” Mulligan said. “While fortunate that no fatalities occurred, the company still exposed employees needlessly to potentially fatal and disabling injuries.”

    A spokesperson for Mohawk Northeast Inc. did not immediately return a request for comment Thursday.

    According to OSHA, the Connecticut-based company — which specialized in heavy and marine construction as well as tugboat transportation — faces $161,323 in proposed penalties tied to the willful citation issued for allegedly not assuring the pier could handle the weight of the workers and equipment.

    OHSA also proposed an additional $53,004 in penalties for four serious related violations. The agency alleges Mohawk failed to provide fall protection for employees working on the pier; anchor or secure a crawler crane to the barge effectively to prevent its shifting; provide life jackets for employees working on the pier and an adjacent barge; or protect or mark the crane’s swing radius to prevent it from striking employees.

    According to a letter dated March 22 from OSHA to Mohawk Northeast, the company had 15 business days to request an informal conference with an OSHA representative or contest the findings before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission. Any violation not contested must be corrected and documented, the agency said.

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