A construction worker on the new Highway 520 bridge died after a fall Thursday.
The man who died Thursday on the Highway 520 project was a 34-year-old carpenter who had worked seven years with prime contractor Kiewit-General-Manson, the company said Friday afternoon.
Kiewit said its staff is cooperating with the state Department of Labor & Industries, and conducting an internal investigation as well. “We are deeply saddened by this tragedy, and our thoughts and prayers are with our employee’s family and many friends,” said a statement forwarded Friday by spokesman Tom Janssen.
Construction crews for Kiewit-General-Manson, at both the fixed and floating bridge areas, suspended work on Friday. However, other companies remain at work on land east of the bridge, as well as on a future western connection at Montlake in Seattle.
A planned westbound traffic closure of Highway 520 from Montlake to 92nd Avenue Northeast will still happen this weekend, from 11 p.m. Friday until 5 a.m. Monday. At times, one of the two westbound lanes from Montlake to I-5 will also close. Drivers heading to the Sounders FC match on Saturday are urged to use I-90 or go around the lake.
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The man fell 60 to 70 feet at around 4:30 p.m., from a bridge deck that was nearly finished, said Ian Sterling, spokesman for the state Department of Transportation. That location, over the east shore of Lake Washington, is the last big gap where a sloped transition span still needs to be installed between the fixed and floating parts of the new six-lane bridge. The worker, who landed on a hard surface, was rushed by firefighters to Harborview Medical Center after state troopers arrived first and performed CPR, according Bellevue Fire Department Lt. Rich Burke. He was pronounced dead at Harborview shortly after arrival, spokeswoman Susan Gregg said.
Kiewit’s team had no previous safety violations on the fixed part of the bridge, said Elaine Fischer, spokeswoman for L&I.
However, records say the companies were cited in 2014 by federal inspectors for four violations on floating barges and pontoons, where the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration has jurisdiction. A drill press wasn’t secured against tipping; a shield over a bench-mounted grinder wasn’t properly adjusted; an area where people handled acid batteries lacked an eyewash station; and scaffolding inside a pontoon wasn’t mounted on wide base plates, according to OSHA notices. Last October, a worker suffered leg injuries during a fall inside a pontoon.
Kiewit is self-insured on the $586 million bridge job, so the state doesn’t keep a log of workers-comp claims or insurance ratings, as in the case of the Highway 99 tunnel, where an Associated Press review found that injury claims increased during 2014.
Among other huge transportation projects, the worst Highway 99 mishap occurred last month, when four workers were hurt, one seriously, while they were building a wall in the north portal and their walkway collapsed. In 2007, a mechanic died at Sound Transit’s Beacon Hill Tunnel, under construction by prime contractor Obayashi, when a supply train crashed outside the west entrance.
State transportation department Secretary Lynn Peterson issued the following statement Thursday evening:
“This evening, I received the call I hoped I would never get as Secretary of Transportation. The call informed me about a loss of life on one of our construction projects. I speak for everyone at WSDOT when I say our thoughts and prayers are with the contractor’s employee’s family and colleagues for their loss. I’ve directed our WSDOT team to have employee-assistance personnel and peer trauma support on site tomorrow to help anyone who might need assistance with this tragedy.”
Meanwhile, in recent weeks, new pontoons have been arranged to nearly span the lake. The last batch was completed this week at Grays Harbor and will reach Seattle soon. By next year, contractors will finish the floating segment and remove the existing four-lane crossing, which was built in 1963.
So far in 2015, seven people have died in Washington state workplace accidents, three of those in motor-vehicle collisions, according to the Department of Labor and Industries. There were 47 workplace fatalities last year and 26 two years ago statewide, according to an unofficial L&I listing.