Five contractors and designers behind the Florida International University bridge, which collapsed onto traffic killing six people in March, have been fined a combined $86,658 by US federal authorities for "serious" safety violations.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) ruled on 18 September that the companies failed to protect workers with fall arrest systems, and did not remove workers from the area despite the bridge developing cracks of "significant width, depth and length at critical locations".
The fines relate to the companies’ lack of action given the presence of the cracks, not to any responsibility the companies may have for the collapse.
It has not been officially determined whether the cracks caused the collapse; the cause is still being investigated by the National Transportation Safety Board.
Five motorists, and one worker who was on the bridge, died on 15 March when the 174-foot, 950-ton section collapsed without warning. It had been hoisted into place just five days before.
Five more workers were seriously injured in the collapse, including one who sustained a serious brain injury, reports The Miami Herald.
The companies cited are bridge designer FIGG Bridge Engineers; contractor Munilla Construction Management; Bolton Perez & Associates, which provided engineering and inspection services; Structural Technologies, which specialises in post-tensioning work on bridges; and a concrete contractor, the Structural Group of South Florida.
"Collectively, these employers failed to take appropriate action and provide the necessary protections to their employees while they were working on the bridge on the day it collapsed," OSHA regional administrator Kurt A. Petermeyer said in a statement.
The companies have 15 business days to accept the citations and pay their fines, or contest the findings.
The Herald notes that the fines mark the first punishments handed down for the accident, and that more may follow. Several civil lawsuits are ongoing, the newspaper said.
A statement to the Herald from Munilla Construction Management welcomed the citations.
Spokesman Michael Hernández said: "MCM views OSHA’s action as a positive first step toward understanding the root cause of this tragic accident. While MCM is still reviewing the OSHA fall protection citation, it is noteworthy that OSHA has not claimed that the cited conditions had anything to do with the FIU bridge span’s failure."
Image: Aerial view of the accident site soon after the bridge collapsed (Miami-Dade Police aviation unit via Twitter)