State and OSHA Officials Probe Seattle Pier Collapse
By David E. Hubler
Contributor, EDM Digest
Amid five days of heavy smoke from wildfires rated as unhealthy to hazardous, Washington state and federal safety inspectors are investigating the collapse Sunday of a pier on Seattle’s waterfront that injured several workers.
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The investigation centers on the two contractor companies that were doing removal work at Waterfront Park when a 15,000 square-foot chunk of the pier broke into Elliott Bay, the Washington State Department of Labor and Industries (L&I) said Monday, according to The Seattle Times.
Five workers were able to evacuate, but two others fell into the water. They were hauled out with minor injuries, the Times said.
The collapse will be investigated by both L&I and the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).
The collapse occurred at about 4 p.m., as workers were cutting away heavy concrete planters that surrounded a bronze fountain on the north end of the structure near the aquarium. The aquarium wasn’t damaged, Tim Kuniholm, a spokesman for the city’s Office of the Waterfront, told the Times.
Built in 1974, Waterfront Park was permanently closed in August. Seattle Parks Superintendent Jesus Aguirre told KUOW radio, “This pier is failing and we need to remove it.” Aguirre added. “We just need to remove it faster than anticipated.”
Seattle Officials Reportedly Knew that Pier 58 Was at Risk
According to the newspaper, the city “knew Pier 58 was at risk due to regular reports on the structure, which is held up by timber, steel and steel-encased concrete piles. In 2016, 52% of the timber piles were seriously decayed, up from 3% in 2006, according to a report at the time by Seattle Structural that predicted one or more piles would fail by 2021.”
Bob Donegan, president of Ivar’s Restaurant on Pier 54, said workers on the perimeter of the Pier 58 site had been directed to watch for sudden shifts in the structure and blow an air horn as a warning to evacuate. “Five of seven [workers on the pier] were able to get away because of the air horn,” said Donegan, who’s been closely involved with multiple waterfront projects.
The inspectors will investigate the city and the two contractors that were involved with the project, Orion Marine Contractors and Evergreen Concrete Cutting.
The Times said that Seattle “had long planned to remove and replace Pier 58 with a new park as part of the massive waterfront overhaul that already has included the construction of a new Elliott Bay Seawall and last year’s deconstruction of the Alaskan Way Viaduct.
“The new seawall was deliberately built unconnected to Pier 58, because the city expected to demolish the old Waterfront Park,” the newspaper added.