It was one of the most traumatic construction catastrophes of 2004, made all the more so by on-the-scene television coverage and a burst of cell-phone-fueled anxiety that shot through the local construction industry.

On February 16, 2004, a giant, specially-built crane collapsed at a new, Interstate 280 bridge under construction over the Maumee River in Toledo, Ohio. Four workers – all Ironworkers – were killed and four others were injured.

Responding to the trauma, LIUNA Local Union 500 Business Manager Steven Thomas and LHSFNA Behavioral Health Care Coordinator Jamie Becker arranged a critical incident stress debriefing (CISD) for Laborers who were working at the site. The CISD took place two days after the catastrophe, and more than 20 Laborers took part.

On May 31, 2005, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) announced a settlement with Fru-Con, the St. Louis-based firm that is completing work on the bridge. Under the deal, OSHA revised the status of the four violations it initially characterized as “willful” to “unclassified.” At the same time, Fru-Con agreed to pay $280,000 in fines, including $13,000 that arose from the inspection of another Fru-Con Toledo construction site in Toledo a month after the crane collapse.

As part of the agreement, Fru-Con also agreed to hire at least one independent safety consultant at all its bridge construction worksites, nationwide. Further, the company will report to OSHA on and implement all recommendations made by whomever is hired to provide consulting services on the I-280 project.

OSHA’s investigation determined that the crane, known as a launching gantry, was not properly anchored. However, in a statement, Fru-Con asserted that the violations were not willful. “Fru-Con accepted the settlement as an alternative to lengthy and expensive litigation.”

For its part, OSHA touted the settlement as one that “offers an increased level of protection at all Fru-Con projects.”

[Steve Clark]