Firm selected for NPDC demolition work cited by OSHA

A pattern of project mishaps

By: Greg Forester
   MONTGOMERY — The contractor selected by Montgomery to perform demolition at the North Princeton Developmental Center is contesting citations from the federal Occupational Health and Safety Administration for repeat safety violations at work sites.
   Brandenburg Industrial Services — picked by the township to demolish 90 or so dilapidated buildings at the former state institution — was handed the citations in late April after a worker and some demolition equipment fell through three floors of the Sterling Hotel in Wilkes-Barre, Pa. in November 2006.
   "There are lots of hazards associated with all demolition work, and contractors have to be aware of the condition of the site and take appropriate action," said Andrew Hedesh, area director of OSHA’s area office in Wilkes-Barre.
   "Without the proper safety precautions at its demolition sites, the company continued to leave its employees open to the risk of injury," Mr. Hadesh said.An incident similar to the one in Wilkes-Barre happened at another Brandenburg site less than three years earlier, during abatement and demolition work at Veteran’s Stadium in Philadelphia that was finished in 2004.
   Another piece of demolition equipment fell through a collapsed floor in the stadium, seriously injuring the operator, OSHA officials said.
   Despite the timing of these two incidents, Brandenburg officials said their company is not cited very often, and that they plan to contest the citations through OSHA.
   "We obviously don’t want to receive these citations from OSHA," said Brandenburg spokesman John O’Keefe. "These types of citations are fairly common, and we are currently contesting them."
   Under one citation entitled "serious" there were seven violation items, including failing to brace the floors of a damaged structure where employees were working and installing curbs around openings to prevent equipment from falling through, according to OSHA.
   This citation carried total fines of $34,500.
   The other citation, entitled "repeat," was handed down because Brandenburg had twice suffered incidents where employees and equipment had fallen through improperly braced floors at demolition sites within three years of each other, according to OSHA.
   The "repeat" citation alone carried a fine of $35,000.
   Although officials from Brandenburg said these types of citations were fairly common in the demolition business, OSHA officials said they disagreed with this view.
   "These types of serious incidents are uncommon," said OSHA spokeswoman Leni Uddyack-Fortson. "I want to make clear they are especially uncommon for a company to have them within a single three-year period."
   Mr. O’Keefe said that Brandenburg was awaiting a judgment from OSHA, but Brandenburg did not yet know when the OSHA Review Commission would make the decision.
   Brandenburg’s demolition work on the Montgomery Township-owned site is slated to begin with the start of summer vacation when children and staff will no longer be present at the Village Elementary School.
   Residents and parents made the necessity of a summer schedule for the demolition clear during public forums held after the purchase of the majority of the site in December 2006.
   The school was built in the center of the 250-acre NPDC site after acquiring a parcel of land from the state in a lease-purchase agreement in 1999.