Jordan Bridge builders slapped with fines after summer span collapse

Posted at 7:32 PM, Dec 19, 2012
and last updated 2012-12-19 19:48:51-05

The builders of the South Norfolk Jordan Bridge are fighting back after NewsChannel 3 uncovered safety violations brought against them by the State of Virginia.

The citation against Figg Bridge Builders comes from the state’s Occupational and Safety Health Compliance Office, or VOSH.

Their investigation was launched after the summer collapse of a span of the bridge, where a construction truss shifted, injuring six workers.

After six months of inspections on site at the Jordan Bridge, VOSH smacked Figg Bridge Builders with $28,000 in fines.

The “serious” violations uncovered include workers not properly trained, modifications made to equipment without permission, and more than 440 inspections missed or undocumented.

According to documents obtained through the Freedom of Information Act, state investigators found that Figg did not follow manufacturer maintenance guidelines for the launching girder system used to build the bridge piece by piece.

VOSH inspectors say that Figg failed to perform or document 330 daily inspections, 96 weekly inspections, and 22 monthly inspections in an 11-month period.

Things that weren't checked include wear and tear on parts, security of nuts and bolts, cleanliness, brake operations and oil leakage from hydraulic systems.

On top of that, the citation also says that Figg and their engineers made modifications to the girder system, specifically against the policy of its manufacturer.

According to the citation, the manual for the truss says, "Make no modifications to the machinery without the written consent of DEAL."

NewsChannel 3 called DEAL's offices down in Florida, and the Italian company told us they sold the girder system to Figg for construction of a completely different bridge, and were never contacted about any changes.

It's important to note that the VOSH investigation does not say if these serious violations actually led up to or caused the truss collapse.

Investigators say all the violations were fixed during inspection, but those inspections all happened after the June accident.

NewsChannel 3 reached out to Figg Bridge Builders, but no one would speak to us on camera, instead only providing a statement from Project Manager W. Jay Rohleder.

The first part reads, "The South Norfolk Jordan Bridge was opened to traffic less than two years after construction began. With more than 400,000 work hours logged on the construction of the bridge, it has an exceptional safety record with no lost time safety incidents."

The last sentence raised some eyebrows here at NewsChannel 3, because the last time we checked, the bridge was delayed three months because of the span collapse.

We asked Figg what they meant. They say they were referring to the safety statistic 'lost time injuries' which means no employees missed a full day of work after they were hurt in the accident.

Their statement goes on to read, "The incident that occurred during construction was a construction equipment property damage issue that had nothing to do with the final bridge...the proposed citation is not related to the structural integrity of the completed project in any way...the completed bridge provides the community a strong, redundant and safe crossing of the Elizabeth River."

We also reached out to the local project managers for United Bridge Partners, who owns the Jordan Bridge.

They did not want to go on camera saying that these citations were given only to Figg, not to the bridge project itself.

In the interest of full disclosure, they do tell us that Figg Bridge Builders does own a part of their company.

The Virginia Department of Labor and Industry tells us Figg is already appealing their findings.