Press misses out on Cal/OSHA probes - Page 2


While capturing the full story would have required a little digging, its breadth appeared later in publicly available civil-court depositions that lucidly described the accident.

Cal/OSHA eventually fined the prime contractor on the bridge, Tutor-Saliba/Koch/Tidewater, $18,000, alleging that the worker operating the winch wasn't properly trained and was only using its brake to control the winch when it should have also been in gear. But public records today show that the joint venture appealed the decision and was later required by an administrative judge to pay just $300 of the fine.

The judge, Bref French, ruled in May of this year that indeed the winch's operator had not been given proper instruction on the machinery as required by law, according to court records. But, French countered that Cal/OSHA had not proved Tutor-Saliba was aware that the training failure would almost undoubtedly result in serious physical harm or death, a key legal threshold that changed the nature of the penalties dramatically.

"The evidence must, at a minimum, show the types of injuries that would more likely than not result from the violative conditions," French wrote.

This week, we reported on a carpenter named Kevin Noah who accidentally fell to his death from the Golden Gate Bridge while working on a multimillion-dollar retrofit project there in 2002. Brief news reports in the Chron announced the tragedy including a follow up that explained how Shimmick-Obayashi was fined $26,000 by Cal/OSHA.

Shimmick-Obayashi, however, never actually had to pay a thing, because as we reported, four years after the accident, a judge ruled on appeal that Cal/OSHA had not printed the contractor's full legal name on the original citations. The judge, Barbara Steinhardt-Carter, dismissed the penalties without ever considering the merits of the case.

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