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WSDOT holds contractor to fire-safety requirements at Taylor Bridge

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Date:  Friday, September 21, 2012

Contact: John Milton, Risk Management director, 360-704-6363
Don Whitehouse, WSDOT South Central region administrator, 509-577-1620
Steve Reinmuth, WSDOT chief of staff, 360-705-7027

OLYMPIA – Conway Construction Co. was put on notice today by the Washington State Department of Transportation that the company will be held legally responsible for all damages, including property, firefighting and response cost, if investigators determine that their construction work started the Taylor Bridge fire.

In a letter to Conway Construction Co. President David Conway, WSDOT said relevant contract specifications make Conway Construction responsible for overall site safety at the work site, especially regarding the risks of fire.

The Taylor Bridge fire, which began Aug. 13, is believed to have originated at a bridge-reconstruction site – a project assigned under contract to Conway Construction and its subcontractors. The state Department of Natural Resources has not yet completed its formal investigation into the cause of the fire.

WSDOT Construction Engineer Jeff Carpenter and Chief of Staff Steve Reinmuth informed Conway in the letter of its relevant responsibilities, including:

  • The requirement to “know and observe all laws and rules (state or federal) on fire prevention…”
  • The requirement to provide “adequate safeguards, safety devices, protective equipment, and any other needed actions to protect the life, health, and safety of the public, and to protect property in connection with the performance of the work covered by the contract.”
  • The requirement to “protect private or public property on or in the vicinity of the work site. The contractor shall ensure that (private or public property) is not removed, damaged, destroyed, or prevented from being used… If the contractor (or agents/employees of the contractor) damage, destroy, or interfere with the use of such property, the contractor shall restore it to original condition.”
  • The requirement to “always comply with all federal, state, tribal, or local laws, ordinances, and regulations that affect work under the contract… The contractor shall likewise be obligated to comply with all federal safety and health standards, codes, rules, and regulations that may be applicable to the contract work…”

“Everyone knows that WSDOT contractors work on roads and bridges during the summer months when it is hot and dry,” Reinmuth said. “Through our detailed contracts, our contractors know that they are responsible for working safely, especially during fire season. The majority of contractors do it right. But if a contractor promises to manage risks and fails to deliver, we will hold them to their handshake with Washington taxpayers.”

WSDOT’s website includes information and resources for those seeking to file a claim for damages.

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