- Your News
By ANDREA AGARDY
A Manchester-based construction company has paid a $6,000 fine issued by the Tennessee Occupational Health and Safety Administration (TOSHA) after one of its workers was killed in an accident earlier this year.
Gilley Construction was a subcontractor on a $21.5 million project led by Britton Bridge LLC, of Mt. Juliet, to construct a new bridge on the Tennessee River at Nickajack Lake. Gilley Construction’s employees were on site installing the steel rebar reinforcing frame for the bridge cap.
On March 26, 31-year-old Gilley Construction employee Abimael Contreras of Manchester was killed after he lost his balance while attempting to cross from one barge to another, falling into the 50-degree water.
According to TOSHA’s summary of the accident, Contreras’ fall protection lanyard got tangled on the bollard post used to tie off the barge as he attempted to traverse the 22-inch gap between the barges. As he stepped across the gap, the lanyard yanked him backwards; he lost his balance and fell into the lake. Once in the water, the report continues, Contreras’ life jacket slipped off his body and floated just above his head as its straps wrapped around the victim’s wrist.
Without his life jacket, and weighed down by his heavy tool belt, Contreras quickly sank below the surface of the lake and drowned.
Several of Contreras’ coworkers witnessed him fall into the 50-foot deep water and tried to save him. His coworkers reached out to him, threw him a life ring and one even dove in after him, all to no avail.
TOSHA’s investigation of the accident that took Contreras’ life resulted in the issuance of two serious citations to Gilley Construction. The first citation, which carried a $2,000 fine, states that Gilley Construction did not train Contreras on the importance of ensuring his personal floatation device is worn properly at all times while working on the floating barge.
The second citation, which comes with a $4,000 penalty, states that Gilley Construction did not provide a safe walkway for employees to cross from one barge to the other. According to the accident report, there was no gangplank between the two barges, and the location of the bollards and the rope connecting the two barges left less than 12 inches of clearance for workers to cross from one barge to the other.
According to TOSHA spokesman Jeff Hentschel, Gilley Construction had the option to contest the fines, but opted not to do so, paying the penalties in full.
An attempt by The News to contact Gilley Construction for comment was unsuccessful.
According to Hentschel, Britton Bridge was also cited for not providing workers with safe passage between the two barges.
“Britton placed the barges and should have created the safe passage to begin with, but afterward Gilley had the responsibility for installing a safe passage,” he said.
In addition to that citation, Hentschel said TOSHA issued other citations to Britton Bridge following the accident related to crane safety. The citations carry penalties in the amount of $7,750 and the company is contesting those fines.