Accountability After Safety Violations at Crenshaw/LAX Project

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In response to a motion by Los Angeles County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority Board of Directors voted Thursday to investigate whether the contractor hired to build the $2-billion Crenshaw-LAX Line is in breach of contract after safety violations resulted in injuries to workers and placed others at risk.

The safety violations came as Walsh-Shea Corridor Constructors began ramping up work on the 8.5-mile rail line that is expected to have a daily ridership of 13,000-16,000 upon completion in 2019. Metro responded to the safety violations by issuing an unprecedented order to shut down construction over a four-day period in early April, resuming work only after the immediate hazards had been corrected.

“It strikes me that if there is a cultural, fundamental or endemic problem here, we cannot ignore it,” Supervisor Ridley-Thomas said at Thursday’s Metro Board meeting. “We cannot run this sort of risk.”

The Supervisor’s motion, which passed with unanimous support from the board, called for:

  • auditing the Metro procurement process that awarded Walsh-Shea the Crenshaw/LAX contract;
  • checking if Walsh-Shea – instead of Metro – should assume the $400,000 cost of hiring additional safety inspectors;
  • directing Metro’s incoming CEO Phillip Washington to submit a corrective action plan in 30 days addressing safety issues; and
  • directing Metro lawyers to explore whether Walsh-Shea was in breach of contract when it failed to ensure the well-being of workers at the construction site.

Two workers have sustained leg fractures during construction of the Crenshaw/LAX Line, Metro Executive Director of Risk and Safety Management Greg Kildare told the Metro Board.

Metro safety inspectors also criticized Walsh-Shea over improper rigging on a crane, improper guardrails around an open excavation, and gasoline in an underground area where flammable liquids are banned. The incident that prompted the temporary suspension of all construction on the project from April 9-13 was a worker striking a utility line with a jackhammer, causing an electrical short.