Construction on $2.4B Los Angeles Purple Line halted due to safety issues

Dive Brief:

  • Construction on a 2.6-mile section of the $2.4 billion Los Angeles Purple Line project has been shut down due to safety concerns following a history of injuries and issues dating to July 2021, according to a letter sent to the contractors by the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transit Authority.
  • Transit officials stopped work following repeated warnings about safety issues to Sylmar, California-based Tutor Perini and Torrington, Connecticut-based O&G Industries, the contractors leading the project.
  • Metro officials shut down the project Oct. 21, suspending work until Nov. 7. The closure could be lifted earlier if the contractors meet Metro’s demands, which include a revamped safety plan and a comprehensive evaluation of the site, but may also be extended if the issues persist.

Dive Insight:

An appendix attached to Metro’s letter lists 50 injuries dating back to July 2021. Recorded injuries include workers who were struck by rebar, some who were hit in the face by air hoses and others who fell from their stations into embankments or to the ground.

Safety issues included hazardous and dusty tunnels and a lack of following fall protection requirements when working at height. The letter emphasized slip, trip and fall hazards, which are among OSHA’s “Fatal Four” dangers that are responsible for a large percentage of worker deaths on construction sites.

“We are firmly committed to providing a safe and healthy work environment for our employees and to working in a manner that ensures the safety of our subcontractors, customers and the general public, as well as the protection of facilities, equipment and the environment,” Tutor Perini said in a statement about the Purple Line’s safety record shared with Construction Dive.

O&G Industries declined to comment.

‘Too little, too late’

In its letter, Metro wrote that the agency has notified the company multiple times over the last two years about safety concerns on the project, including correspondence addressed directly to Tutor Perini CEO Ron Tutor in July 2021, but has not received a satisfactory response.  

It called Tutor Perini’s voluntary stand down after the latest accident “too little, too late.”

“TPOG needs to identify and address more fundamentally whatever changes in safety culture, training and procedures should be implemented to improve safety on the project moving forward,” Metro officials wrote.

The Los Angeles Purple Line Extension is expected to open by 2027, according to the transit agency’s website. Tutor Perini was awarded a $1.37 billion contract to construct the second phase of the project in 2017.

In a statement to Construction Dive, Los Angeles Metro spokesperson Dave Sotero said that safety is a top priority on the project and that workers need to always be protected.

“We expect the contractor to improve its safety policies and to demonstrate its full compliance with all of Metro’s contract safety requirements before we allow work to continue,” the agency said.

Sotero told the Los Angeles Times that the last time Metro shut down a project in this fashion was in August 2016, on the Crenshaw/LAX Transit project.

The California Public Utilities Commission is also investigating a Tutor Perini jobsite in San Francisco, following a fire in June on a Municipal Transportation Agency job. The fire suppression system and ventilation fans didn’t activate, according to a report submitted by a fire inspector, and an internal review by Muni found that the contractor shut off the fire suppression system to avoid any costs related to a potential accidental activation of the alarm, NBC Bay Area reported.

The San Francisco Municipal Transit Authority, which oversees the agency, declined to comment on that incident, as did Tutor Perini. CPUC did not return requests for comment.

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