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No OSHA Probe in Scaffold Collapse

Friday, March 20, 2015

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Federal safety authorities will not investigate the partial collapse of project scaffolding ripped apart by high winds in downtown Portland, OR, according to reports.

No injuries were reported in the incident Sunday (March 15) afternoon.

Screengrab via BlueMoonBrightStar / YouTube, used with permission

People on the street below used their cell phones to capture video of the collapse Sunday (March 15) in downtown Portland, OR. No injuries were reported.

Cell phone video footage shows the scaffolding swaying in the wind and ultimately raining pipes and boards on the street below.

At least one vehicle was heavily damaged, local reports said.

Gusting winds of about 60 mph were thought to be responsible for the collapse, reports say.

The collapse occurred at a renovation project, led by contractor SolTerra Systems, of Seattle, that will convert a former restaurant space into offices and a banquet hall.

OSHA Not Investigating

A spokeswoman for the Occupational Safety and Health Administration told a local CBS television affiliate that the agency would not investigate the incident. The agency regulates worker safety, and no workers were on site at the time, she said.

Spokeswoman Melanie Mesaros also told Portland's KATU that OSHA did not have regulations related to wind resistance or wind speed for scaffolding systems.

BlueMoonBrightStar / YouTube, used with permission

OSHA’s guidance on scaffolding hazards and safeguards is available here.

Scaffold Contractor Statement

The subcontractor responsible for erecting the scaffolding, Safway Systems LLC, of Waukesha, WI, says it is conducting its own investigation of the incident.

“Safway utilizes the highest engineering standards in scaffolding and access solutions to ensure uncompromised safety for our employees, our customers and the public,” Vice President of Communications Karla Cuculi told media outlets.

“This includes use of our equipment in a full range of weather conditions when used according to our specifications and guidelines.

“We are currently investigating the situation … to better understand what happened during the windstorm and why there was an issue,” she said.

The company did not respond Thursday (March 19) to a request for further details.

Contractor: Checking Every Joint

SolTerra Systems construction manager Rich Grimes said the company had asked Safway “to go through and double-check every joint on this remaining scaffolding.”


OSHA’s offers guidance on scaffolding hazards and safeguards here.

He also said that people should feel safe in the area.

The companies reportedly cleaned up the fallen debris Sunday evening.

The scaffolding included plastic sheeting reportedly installed by a painting subcontractor, but the contractor’s identity was not immediately available Thursday (March 19).

Past OSHA Cases

SolTerra is a Seattle-based design-build firm specializing in innovative and sustainable rooftops, according to its website.

The company, founded in 2008, has been cited by OSHA three times in the last two years, according to a review of OSHA’s database.

Most recently, in December 2013, the company was cited for four violations, including fall hazards, at a jobsite in Washington. SolTerra was fined $2,050 for those violations.

Based in Waukesha, WI, Safway provides scaffolding and access equipment and services through 85 branch locations in North America and a system of distributors in South America.

A search of OSHA’s database turned up no reports of citations against Safway in Oregon. However, the company has had three recent cases in Washington, including one from March 2011.

In that case, OSHA imposed a $3,500 fine for two serious safety hazards, including the failure to provide safe access. However, the company formally settled with the agency, removing one violation and reducing the penalty to $1,750.


Tagged categories: Access; Accidents; Contractors; Health and safety; Renovation; Safway; Scaffolding

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