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Muni tunnel death: Breed orders better ‘checks and balances’ after company’s safety record revealed

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Mayor London Breed called for a review of Muni’s policies for reviewing and awarding contracts after a company involved in the death of a worker was revealed to have a record of prior workplace safety violations. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)

After the San Francisco Examiner uncovered the checkered safety record of a company whose worker died in the Twin Peaks Tunnel, Mayor London Breed on Thursday ordered transit officials to revise policies around vetting contractors.

The mayor told Ed Reiskin, director of transportation, to review and revise the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency’s current policy after the Examiner reported the agency did not double check the company’s safety record before awarding a nearly $41 million contract earlier this year.

“When it comes to awarding multi-million dollar contracts that impact the safety of our residents, there needs to be a better system of checks and balances,” Breed said in a statement.

A review of public records revealed that the Oakland-based Shimmick Construction had been cited for nearly 50 safety violations over the past decade, including citations for a forklift accident from November 2016 in which a worker was crushed to death in Moorpark, Ca.

SEE RELATED: Contractor in SF Muni tunnel death had record of safety violations

The violations came to light after Patrick Ricketts, a 51-year-old signal technician for Shimmick Construction, died Friday when a temporary steel beam fell and pinned him during the seismic retrofit of the tunnel.

The California Occupational Safety and Health Administration has cited the company for three serious and willful safety violations since 2008.

Shimmick Construction appealed all three violations, but the Cal/OSHA Appeals Board affirmed the decisions as serious and willful. Both cases are currently under litigation in Sacramento Superior Court.

When the SFMTA asked Shimmick Construction and its business partner last November whether it had been cited for a serious and willful violation in the last decade, the company responded “no.”

The SFMTA relied on the company to accurately represent its past.

A Shimmick Construction spokesperson previously said that the answer “is accurate.”

But if the answer is accurate, then the SFMTA may not be asking the right question, according to Jen Low, an aide to Supervisor Norman Yee.

SEE RELATED: Checkered past of contractor in SF Muni tunnel death raises ‘red flag’

Yee on Wednesday called for a hearing at the Board of Supervisors to investigate whether the SFMTA properly vetted the company in response to reports in the Examiner and NBC Bay Area.

“Rather than rely on information from potential contractors, we are taking steps now to change the policy and ensure that we verify details in the pre-bid documents going forward,” SFMTA spokesperson Paul Rose said.

A “clerical error” had initially led to confusion over whether the Cal/OSHA Appeals Board had affirmed two of the three serious and willful citations, but a Cal/OSHA spokesperson said Thursday the board had.

The citations were erroneously listed as serious in a summary table included in the decision letter.

Regardless, all three are being litigated.

Ricketts left behind a wife in Williams, Ca., and two adult stepchildren. His funeral is scheduled for next week.

SEE RELATED: Technician killed by beam in Twin Peaks Tunnel was working with stepson

mbarba@sfexaminer.com

This story has been updated to include additional information.

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