OSHA Cites Contractors, Issues $700K in Fines for South Boston Power Plant Collapse

The agency has proposed nearly $700,000 in combined penalties for NorthStar Contracting and Suffolk Construction

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The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has cited two contractors for demolition and asbestos hazards following a building collapse at the former Boston Edison power plant in South Boston last May that caused an employee to lose his legs and injured two others.

NorthStar Contracting was cited for eight violations of workplace safety standards, with OSHA proposing nearly $400,000 in penalties.

In addition, Suffolk Construction was issued five citations for violations of workplace safety standards and $292,000 in proposed penalties.

Among other things, OSHA said they found that NorthStar failed to conduct an engineering survey to determine the condition of the mezzanine that collapsed, failed to designate someone to supervise the asbestos containment area, and failed to conspicuously post the safe weight load on the mezzanine floor where demolition and asbestos debris was being stored.

Read the full NorthStar citations below:

Suffolk Construction, meanwhile, allegedly failed to inspect the contractor's asbestos work area, didn't post the safe weight load limit on the mezzanine floor and didn't have a plan in place to prevent an unplanned collapse of the mezzanine.

Read the full Suffolk citations below:

“The employers in this case exposed employees to the immediate hazard of structural collapse and the potential long-term consequences of asbestos exposure," OSHA Area Director James Mulligan said in a statement. "These hazards are preventable and employers can control and eliminate them. Had they ensured proper planning – including engineering surveys and frequent and regular jobsite inspections, effective safety procedures, personal protective equipment and employee training – was in place, this incident and the violations that followed might have been avoided."

Each contractor has 15 days from receipt of the citations and penalties to either comply, request an informal conference or contest the findings before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.

Suffolk issued a statement saying they disagree with OSHA's findings.

"While we are disappointed and disagree with the preliminary findings by OSHA, we will continue to work closely with the demolition contractor NorthStar and all parties involved in this project to maintain the highest level of safety on the jobsite," the statement said. "As always, safety is our number one priority and we are committed to working with stakeholders throughout the industry to improve construction safety and ensure all workers return home safely at the end of the work day."

The workers were injured in the May 4 building collapse while removing asbestos from the former Boston Edison power plant in preparation for the 1898 building's demolition. The building is being redeveloped into a mix of residences, office and research, retail and hotel uses. Two employees were immediately removed but a third was pinned under a 30-foot section of catwalk flooring and later lost his legs as a result.

Boston Mayor Michelle Wu said at the time that it was a "near miracle" that rescue crews were able to pull the man from the wreckage and get him to the hospital.

That worker, 34-year-old Wilson Ortega, spoke with NBC10 Boston last month just before his release from Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital, where was fitted with prosthetic legs and worked closely with therapists to learn how to walk again.

A construction worker who lost both his legs when a South Boston building collapsed in May is learning to walk again.

He became emotional as he recalled when his 6-year-old son saw him walk for the first time with his prosthetic legs. He said his son was smiling and full of joy.

"It's God's will," he said in Spanish. "At the very least, I am OK, I am alive, I have my health. Now I can walk again, and I can hug my son, I can hug my family."

He told NBC10 Boston he had moments of doubt, but decided to keep going.

"When life hits you with something, you are not knocked out until you decide not to pick yourself up," Ortega said. "If you decide to stay on the ground, you are knocked out. I always say that I was not going to stay knocked out. God will have me until the day he decides otherwise. I will always pick myself up."

Ortega said he wasn't sure what the future held for him, but he was looking forward to spending more time with his son and family in Santo Domingo. He also said he wants to help others by sharing his experience with others who are going through difficult times.

"However difficult, whatever the situation may be, never give up, because they are just moments in your life. Life gets worse or it gets better, but it will not stay that way," he said. "One can change. The future is not written, you can make your own future. This happened, now we have to move forward. There are millions of people that are in worse situations than we are. I see it daily. So why not give thanks to God for our situation and ask for strength?"

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