David Gardner, P.E. was interviewed by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette on September 8, 2016 to discuss construction safety standards relevant to hot work and fire prevention. Excerpts from the interview are quoted below along with a link to the full story.
Article: Construction Safety Experts Agree, Bridge Fire Avoidable
The fire that risked bringing down the Liberty Bridge should not have occurred had workers been following long-standing fire safety measures, construction experts said Thursday.
Workers at all construction sites are supposed to follow standards set by the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration and the National Fire Protection Association, including specific requirements when they are doing “hot work” such as welding or using torches to cut steel. The fire a week ago that caused a 30-foot chord to bow and put the 2,600-foot-long bridge in danger of collapsing started when sparks from a worker cutting steel ignited plastic ventilation pipe and a tarpaulin.
According to the NFPA, crews doing hot work should have any combustible material at least 35 feet away from the flame or cover it with fire-retardant material. In addition, at least one member of a hot-work crew should be assigned as a “fire watch” to check for potential problems and have fire suppression equipment such as a fire extinguisher immediately available.
OSHA has similar requirements for worker safety.
David Gardner, said safety should be a daily priority at all construction sites, with regular meetings at least weekly to remind crews of safety procedures and note changes that occur as jobs progress. For example, cutting steel might not be part of a job until several months in, so safety procedures should be reviewed right before that work begins.
Mr. Gardner, who is based in Pittsburgh, is a civil engineering expert who specializes in construction safety for Robson Forensic in Lancaster. He said he has worked at job sites where Fay was one of the contractors and described the firm as “very safety-oriented.”
“Construction is inherently dangerous,” he said. “Sometimes you can do everything properly and [stuff] happens.
“But an accident the magnitude of this one doesn’t happen without repercussions.”
Since the fire, PennDOT has been working with the contractor, engineering consultants and experts from Carnegie Mellon and Lehigh universities to monitor the safety of the bridge and design a repair plan. Parts are being fabricated to attach a 26.5-foot steel brace on each side of the damaged chord, and jacks and possibly heat will be used to try to stretch it back to its original length, which was compressed by 1⅝ inches.
Parts should begin arriving today, Mr. Cessna said, but crews have been making progress by replacing temporary bolts on the damaged chord with longer, permanent bolts.
PennDOT hopes repairs are finished so the bridge can be reopened Monday.
Fay’s reconstruction work includes deck replacement, painting, structural steel work and new signs. About 55,000 drivers use the bridge daily.
Read the Full Story at: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
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Civil Engineer & Construction Safety Expert
David Gardner is a civil engineer with more than twenty-five years of professional experience. He provides investigations, reports, and testimony in matters involving construction claims and injuries. David’s project experience crosses various disciplines within civil engineering, including heavy highway and bridge, municipal engineering, and compressor stations/site work for the natural gas industry.
David earned his degree in civil engineering from Penn State and is licensed as a Professional Engineer in various states and the District of Columbia.