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Twin Peaks Tunnel worker death prompts call for hearing

San Francisco Supervisor Norman Yee will call for a hearing when the Board of Supervisors returns from its summer recess to look at safety concerns when city agencies evaluate contract bids.

The call for the hearing comes after 51-year old Patrick Ricketts, a signal technician for Oakland-based Shimmick Construction, was working on the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency’s Twin Peaks Tunnel project when he died last Friday when a steel beam fell on top of him at the work site.

In a report by the San Francisco Examiner on Tuesday, Shimmick Construction had told the SFMTA on a questionnaire that the company had no prior serious citations against them by the state during the contract bidding process.

A spokesperson with Shimmick Construction told the Examiner that the company’s response to the questionnaire was accurate.

But in fact, the company did have accidents at work sites where injuries were “serious and willful,” including on a project Yorba Linda, Calif. that resulted in a $67,500 fine from the California Occupational Safety Hazard Agency, which is now in ongoing litigation.

Another accident, which resulted in a fatality, occurred at Moorpark, Calif. when a forklift driver was pinned between a forklift and a dirt wall. The fine was $48,400, but is under contest by Shimmick Construction.

Yee said in a statement:

“As a City, we must make every effort to fully vet our contractors and ensure we are only contracting with companies that are forthright about their safety record and put the safety of workers at the forefront.”

Yee added:

“While completing the project on time remains a priority to minimize the disruption to community members and merchants, the safety and lives of our workers is paramount.”

Cal/OSHA and the Police Department investigated the incident last Friday while the SFMTA suspended the project.

Work resumed after the scene was cleared by Cal/OSHA and SFPD and the SFMTA and contractor deemed the work site safe.

Cal/OSHA has opened a case and could take three to six months to complete.

Frank Polizzi, a public information officer with the California Department of Industrial Relations, said Cal/OSHA has six months to issue citations on violations of workplace safety regulations.

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