A construction worker rides on top of materials being transported out of the Twin Peaks Tunnel during construction. Muni is blaming delays on damage done by the contractor on the project. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)

Cal/OSHA cites companies $65K over Twin Peaks Tunnel worker death

A state investigation into the death of a worker in the Twin Peaks Tunnel revealed Wednesday that a crane operator with insufficient training knocked over the steal beam that crushed his colleague.

The California Occupational Safety and Health Administration has cited the partnership between Shimmick Construction and Con-Quest Contractors $65,300 for the death of 51-year-old Patrick Ricketts.

Ricketts, a signal technician for Shimmick Construction, was walking out of the tunnel toward West Portal on the afternoon of Aug. 10 when the operator struck a 1.2 ton overhead steel beam with the boom of the crane.

Cal/OSHA investigators found that the operator only had on-the-job training and had only used the crane twice before. The worker had the boom of the crane in an unsecured upward position when it clipped the steel beam that fell 13 feet and killed Ricketts.

In addition, investigators found that four employees including Ricketts were “moving within the zone of danger” at the time of the accident. The worker had never before used the crane beneath the beam.

Cal/OSHA issued two $25,000 serious accident-related citations to the partnership for failing to instruct workers on the hazards of using the crane and for failing to handle the crane properly.

It also issued a pair of $7,650 serious citations for two employees riding on the railcars that the crane was pushing into the tunnel when the boom struck the beam.

“Hazards in tunnel construction work can include cave-ins, falling objects and breathable airborne contaminants,” Cal/OSHA Chief Juliann Sum said in a statement. “Employers must identify and evaluate the particular hazards in their workplace and train employees on safe work practices to avoid injury, illness or even death.”

After the accident, the Examiner learned that Shimmick Construction had not told the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency while bidding on the $40 million project that it had been cited for serious and willful violations in the past, when it had been.

The company, which had appealed the violations, said the information it provided to the SFMTA was accurate, but experts say it wasn’t. The SFMTA also sided with Shimmick Construction.

The issue raised questions about whether the SFMTA effectively reviewed the safety records of its contractors, as the agency said it had not double checked the information Shimmick Construction provided.

In response to news reports, Mayor London Breed and then-Supervisor Norman Yee called for the SFMTA and city agencies to strengthen their procedures for soliciting contracts.

Yee, the current president of the Board of Supervisors, also called a hearing on the issue.

A spokesperson for Shimmick Construction declined to comment.

Con-Quest Contractors and the SFMTA did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

This is a breaking news story. Check back later for updates.

mbarba@sfexaminer.com

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