The death of a Highway 520 bridge worker happened in part because a safety cable hit a steel edge and severed, state investigators found.
Highway 520 bridge carpenter Joe Arrants fell to his death in March when a safety cable broke instead of saving him, a state investigation found.
The Department of Labor & Industries (L&I) announced Wednesday it will fine the Kiewit-General-Manson joint venture a total of $14,400 for five safety violations, after the March 12 accident.
The most serious violation was failure to use fall-prevention cables according to manufacturer’s specifications, the state said.
Arrants, a 34-year-old husband, and father of two from Burien, was a foreman on the east high rise of the new, six-lane Lake Washington bridge.
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He lost his balance while removing forms from a concrete section of the bridge, “when one of the forms shifted and caused the worker to fall,” L&I said. “As he fell, the fall-protection cable went over a steel edge and was severed.” He landed on a dock 60 feet below.
Arrants had been working more than 6 feet above the anchor point of the cable system, which increased the risk of cable damage, L&I said.
The state’s description jibes with comments by Arrants’ relatives in a March interview, that they saw him after the accident with his safety harness and a frayed cable segment still attached.
Arrants was known for his enthusiasm, in particular when working at heights. Kiewit was about to transfer him to Honolulu, to build light-rail bridges similar to Sound Transit’s overhead trackways in Tukwila.
Other listed violations include failure to inspect fall-protection devices for mildew, wear and damage; not having a lifesaving boat or buoy nearby to prevent potential drownings; and not ensuring that tools were maintained safely, based on a lift hook that was missing a safety latch to keep loads from sliding off, the citation said.
All the problems were either corrected or no longer exist, L&I reported.
Kiewit said in a statement:
“The employees of Kiewit-General-Manson are still heartbroken by the tragic death of Joe Arrants, our employee and friend, last March. We are closely reviewing the findings of the Department of Labor and Industries. We remain committed to constantly improving our safety program on the SR 520 Floating Bridge — and all of our projects. Our thoughts and prayers remain with Joe’s family and friends.”
Many people rallied behind the family this spring, including co-workers who helped finish a house-improvement project. Labor unions and the Washington State Department of Transportation Memorial Foundation donated at least $60,000.
“ It gave me hope for humanity to see such good come forth,” said Veronica Arrants, one of Joe’s sisters, in an email message, adding that she’s in no rush to read the L&I report.
“I really see no purpose in pointing fingers and playing the blame game,” she said. “I’d prefer to focus on the positives. Like Joe did.”
Grays Harbor College offers an annual Joe Arrants Memorial Scholarship for carpentry students, established by Kiewit and Association of General Contractors.