Sound Transit: Obayahsi Construction Company failure to abide by safety rules leads to death

Posted Monday, February 19, 2007 by Ed Harper

A recent death of a construction worker could have been prevented at a Sound Transit construction site. A state audit showed that managers at the construction site were not required to be at safety meetings as required by Washington State Law. A WAC requires attendance at weekly safety meetings for all management officials.

The construction worker was killed when a train on the tracks he was working collided with a parked train. According to the Seattle Times article last week stated

“The contractor digging Sound Transit’s Beacon Hill tunnel, where a worker died this week, failed to establish a culture of safety on the job site last year, an audit found.

The contractor, Obayashi Corp., is performing the tunnel work where a small supply train hit a parked locomotive and derailed early Wednesday morning.

A mechanic, 49-year-old Michael Merryman, died of internal injuries when he was thrown from the train or jumped outside the tunnel entrance.”

The independent audit, released Friday, further found that while the company has good safety procedures, its Beacon Hill managers were not participating in safety meetings and inspections. Those duties were left to Obayashi’s safety manager. Frequent employee turnover made it difficult to promote safety awareness, said the audit, completed last month by an independent consultant.”

This is second major train incident in Seattle at a Obayashi worksite in the last five months. In October, 2006, five workers avoided serious injury because of human error and a failure in the braking system on a supply train. Two workers had to jump from the flatbed railway car. Two supervisors for Obayashi had to serve three day suspensions for these violations.

Actual interest in safety has been lacking on this job site. Merely stating safety is a concern does not make it so. Obayashi should be ashamed of how it fails to follow-through on protecting its workers and one worker has died as a direct result.

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