Flammable Material Containment In Question at Liberty Bridge Fire

Flammable material containment is paramount in all construction safety training.The United States Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration recently issued a citation to Pennsylvania-based construction company, Joseph B Fay Company, for a violation related to a September 2nd, 2017 fire which occurred during the renovation of the Liberty Bridge in Pittsburgh. The serious violation came as the result of a flammable material containment failure that couldn’t be removed from the work space, which involved metal-cutting processes and, relatedly, slag run-off onto decks below. For this violation, OSHA proposed a penalty of $7,500.

In addition to the major fire, which ignited in an uncovered plastic ventilation pipe, burned for 30 to 45 minutes, and buckled a structural 30-foot steel beam, a number of smaller fires were determined to have previously ignited on lower decks at the same worksite, in the days prior. Two separate incidents of smaller fires, which ignited due to slag run-off, were found to have occurred on Aug. 30th and Sept 1st, respectively.

The $80 million dollar-renovation was put on hiatus for 24 days, to allow for investigation and safety compliance procedures to be carried out. Flammable material containment review was under further scrutiny.

Joseph B. Fay issued a statement, regarding the incident and subsequent OSHA findings:

“Individual OSHA interviews are a portion of an investigation and need to be taken in context with all the findings. The final determination was based on the entirety of information collected and verified by the compliance officer. The OSHA investigation is closed. The bridge was reopened and safe to traffic, months ago, and not one person was injured during the entire incident. Modifications have been made to procedures to assure no future situations occur.”

Proper flammable material containment or combustible materials storage is an OSHA standard that is outlined in the HAZWOPER standards. One resource that safety leaders can utilize to identify potential fires or explosion hazards at work sites that utilize flammable or combustible materials is an OSHA-approved online training course.