Saturday, April 08, 2006

Death of Bill Calloway: "Accident" or "Willful Action"?

Two years ago today, Bill Calloway, a Caltrans employee, was painting on the 12-story high Benicia bridge when he slipped and fell to his death.

His employer -- Caltrans -- called it an accident. But all may not be as it seemed:
Since he wasn't wearing a safety harness on that day, some might have thought the accident was Calloway's fault.

But CBS 5 Investigates has now discovered that there are far more disturbing questions about the role of Caltrans itself in protecting the lives of workers like Calloway.

In what a Cal-OSHA safety investigator found to be a serious violation, Caltrans didn't make sure its workers wore safety harnesses at all. For that, Cal-OSHA fined Caltrans $25,000.

But what's worse, that investigator found that even if Calloway had been wearing a safety harness, it wouldn't have mattered: in the spot where Calloway fell, there was nothing for workers to attach their harnesses to, with the result that those workers had no choice but to walk across "unprotected ... steel beams" as Calloway did that day.
Calloway's wife is now claiming in court that Caltrans was responsible, calling their actions were "serious and willful." Caltrans refuses to comment, but is appealing the $36,000 CalOSHA citation.