Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Penalties for Liberty Bridge Fire Likely to Be Paid from Contractor's Profits

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Penalties for Liberty Bridge Fire Likely to Be Paid from Contractor's Profits

Article excerpt

More than $3.5 million in fines and emergency repairs for September's Liberty Bridge fire likely will come out of contractor Joseph B. Fay Co.'s profit on the $80 million bridge rehabilitation.

The federal Occupational Health and Safety Administration last week added another $11,224 to the West Deer contractor's fees when it issued a citation for not conducting an appropriate fire watch before the Sept. 2 blaze. Hot slag from a steel cutting operation on the upper deck of the bridge dropped to a construction platform below and ignited plastic ventilation pipe that had been stored there improperly, the agency said.

The fire buckled a key support chord on the bridge and caused PennDOT to close it for 24 days because of concern the 88-year-old structure could collapse.

That assessment comes on top of $3,033,200 the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation will deduct from Fay's final payment for liquidated damages as a result of the bridge and a ramp being closed for 24 days for emergency repairs. Dan Cessna, PennDOT's District 11 executive, said the agency also expects to deduct more than $500,000 in additional damages for the cost of emergency and still-to-come permanent repairs to the bridge, as well as the cost of assembling a 16-member team of national experts to assess, monitor and design the repairs.

And the Pittsburgh Bureau of Fire issued a $1,000 fine for Fay's failure to obtain a permit to conduct so-called "hot work" such as cutting steel with a torch.

The OSHA fine and other penalties likely will come from the contractor's expected profit on the project and aren't covered by insurance, said Jim Leatzow, a Three Lakes, Wis., agent with 39 years of experience in contractor insurance. Mr. Leatzow said no insurer would cover a contractor's performance on a construction project.

"If a contractor has no risk, no skin in the game, it takes away from the quality of their performance," Mr. Leatzow said. "There is no way to insure for damages for errors by the general contractor."

Any loss as a result of construction errors would be covered by the company's expected profit on a project, he said. …

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