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Firm Fined for Death on Freeway

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Cal/OSHA officials said Monday that they found “serious” safety violations at a construction zone on the San Diego Freeway where a falling beam killed a motorist on his way to work earlier this month.

Investigators concluded that the contractor at the site used only a single clamp to lift a seven-ton steel beam, then improperly hoisted the beam, allowing it to slip and knock another beam and wooden scaffolding into the path of the motorist.

After shutting down the construction site for three days, Cal/OSHA cited and fined the Danville, Calif.-based contractor, Ball, Ball & Brosamer, $7,000 for improperly rigging the beam and another $7,000 for improperly lifting it--the maximum amount allowed under state safety regulations. The contractor has appealed one of the fines and has until the end of the week to appeal the other, said Cal/OSHA spokesman Troy Swauger.

“The improper use of this hoisting method would’ve required absolute balance at all times. Once the slippage began, it was a domino effect,” Swauger said.

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It was an accident that seemed to be every driver’s nightmare come true. In the predawn darkness of Dec. 5, Anjule Quitania, 36, was en route to an oil refinery to look over a shipment. As he nosed his minivan onto the interchange linking the San Diego and the Long Beach freeways, the contractor’s crane lost control of the beam and spilled steel and lumber into the fast lane. Quitania’s vehicle hit the debris and skidded down an embankment on the other side of the freeway. He was pronounced dead at the scene at 2:15 a.m.

Days after the accident, the contractor said it would alter safety procedures at the site by securing clamps at each end of beams that need be moved.

In a letter to investigators, the manufacturer of the clamp being used at the time of the accident said: “There are no teeth to prevent the clamp from slipping . . . although if the clamp is properly mounted and tightened, it provides a very good grip.”

The letter also pointed a finger at the contractor. “From [the investigators’] explanation of the accident, it is clear that the clamp was being misused, and may possibly have not been fully tightened,” the manufacturer wrote to investigators.

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This is not the first time Cal/OSHA has uncovered improprieties at one of the contractor’s sites. Last year, the agency fined the company $32,900 for violations found at a construction zone on the Harbor Freeway, where a crane toppled and killed a worker. Investigators concluded that the crane had only two of its four outrigger legs extended.

Quitania’s family is considering suing the company.

“I know for a fact there is something wrong,” said Yours Quitania, Anjule’s younger brother. “I don’t want this happening again to nobody. I know it’s not over.”


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