State probes fatal fall

RYAN HUTTON/Staff photoPolice inspect a lift on a barge on the Merrimack River under the Interstate 495 bridge after a construction worker was killed and another seriously injured in a fall there. 

An investigation continues into what caused two workers at a bridge project to fall, in an incident which killed one of the men.

The construction worker was killed and another worker was seriously injured in the incident Wednesday morning of last week at the site of a bridge repair project on Interstate 495, authorities said.

The two workers fell from the bucket of a lift truck as they were working on the bridge and landed on a barge parked below in the Merrimack River, according to Massachusetts State Police.

Haverhill police reported the construction accident at 115 Bank Road, near the Deluca car dealerships, to state police shortly before 10 a.m.

Troopers assigned to District Attorney Jonathan Blodgett’s office and the State Police crime scene services responded with Haverhill police. Investigators have ruled out foul play, according to Carrie Kimball, Blodgett’s spokesperson.

The 46-year-old worker who survived was initially taken to Lawrence General Hospital and later underwent surgery at Lahey Medical Center in Burlington, according to Kimball. He is listed in serious condition.

The other worker was pronounced dead almost immediately after the fall. He was 44 years old and from Manchester, New Hampshire, officials said.

Their identities were not released immediately after the incident. Later, the man who died was identified by officials as Dennis Robertson.

Both workers were employed by a state Department of Transportation contractor, according to a statement released by the agency.

In the statement, the DOT said it “will be cooperating fully with OSHA and other authorities in determining what occurred to lead to this tragedy.”

The bridge replacement project involves removing and replacing the bridge that carries northbound and southbound drivers on I-495 over the Merrimack River.

The $110 million project utilizes a “design-build project delivery process” and the team includes SPS New England Inc., based in Salisbury, and designer HNTB, the statement said.

Officials with SPS New England Inc. arrived at the scene shortly after the incident.

A man wearing a International Union of Operating Engineers Local 4 union sweatshirt was allowed on the scene shortly before 11 a.m. It was unclear if the workers involved were affiliated with that union.

The bridge replacement project has been underway since September and is expected to be completed by June of 2022.

The Massachusetts Coalition for Occupational Safety & Health released a statement he day of the incident, saying it “is saddened to learn of a worker fatality and serious injuries to another worker at a bridge construction project in Haverhill.”

“The tragic event is a reminder that working at heights remains a very dangerous job and that it’s essential that employers take the time to carefully implement OSHA-required safety measures,” the statement read.

“Working from lifts exposes workers to numerous dangerous but preventable hazards. Workers can make contact with live electrical wires, lifts can overturn when placed on unstable ground, they can be struck by moving objects, and workers can fall from lift buckets when not provided with a fall protection system and fall restraints,” the statement read.

OSHA regulations require employers to make sure that workers who operate aerial lifts are properly trained in the safe use of the equipment and to ensure employees operate elevating work platforms according to the manufacturer’s instructions, the statement said.

“During this time where many of us make special plans to be with friends and family, the sudden death of a loved one who died attempting to make a living can be especially difficult,” said MassCOSH’s Executive Director Jodi Sugerman-Brozan.

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