Employees of a joint-venture contractor tasked with building the new State Route 520 Bridge are facing scrutiny after a hidden-camera investigation by KOMO TV allegedly found several of them drinking on the job.
An unidentified employee interviewed by KOMO told the television station that Kiewit/General/Manson workers drink "every day" at the project office located on 112th Avenue Northeast in Bellevue. State law requires employers to prohibit alcohol and narcotic drugs in the workplace.
A report from The Seattle Times says officials from both KGM and the Washington State Department of Transportation are investigating the extent of the problem. The state Department of Labor and Industries is also considering an investigation, according to the Times.
The bridge replacement is part of an overall $4.65-billion project that includes improvements throughout the SR 520 corridor. KGM was awarded a $586.6-million contract in 2011 to complete phase 1 of the bridge replacement.
Dear Washington state residents,
A safe transportation system is the Washington State Department of Transportation’s highest priority. To safely build, operate, and maintain that system, we have long-held and clear policies that strictly prohibit any drug or alcohol use by state employees in the workplace.
According to recent news reports, contractor staff working on the SR 520 Floating Bridge and Landings Project were drinking alcohol in a contractor-leased office building. WSDOT employees also work in this building, and at this time, we believe that none of them were involved.
WSDOT executives learned of alcohol use by contractor employees on Friday, May 18. In response, we have taken swift action confirming our policy with our contractors to help prevent a situation like this from happening again. This is how we have responded:
Monday, May 21:
- WSDOT sent a letter to SR 520 floating bridge contractor Kiewit Infrastructure West Co., reminding them of WSDOT’s policy requiring a drug- and alcohol-free workplace and requesting that they abide by these rules at any office co-located with WSDOT employees.
- Kiewit confirmed in a letter requiring a drug- and alcohol-free workplace and requesting that they abide by these rules at any office co-located with WSDOT employees.
- Kiewit-General, the WSDOT pontoon contractor in Aberdeen, confirmed that their drug- and alcohol-free workplace policy has been and is enforced at the Aberdeen office.
Tuesday, May 22:
- WSDOT sent a letter to Eastside Corridor Constructors, contractor for the SR 520 Eastside Transit and HOV Project, reminding them of WSDOT’s policy requiring a drug- and alcohol-free workplace and requesting that they abide by these rules at any office co-located with WSDOT employees.
- Eastside Corridor Constructors assured WSDOT in a letter that their policy prohibits the use of drugs and alcohol on the project or at their co-located office. They noted that their policy was provided to WSDOT when the project began in 2011 and they have always abided by it.
- I sent all WSDOT employees an email reminder reminder about our drug- and alcohol-free workplace policies, and asked employees to report any activities to the contrary.
Wednesday, May 23:
- We will ensure that we cite WAC 296-800-110 - Employer Responsibilities: Safe Work Place, prohibiting alcohol and narcotics in the workplace, in our contract provisions with all construction contractors and design consultants on WSDOT projects.
- We will point out to contractors that, from here on, they will see these provisions on WSDOT’s Ad and Award website.
- We will add instructions to the WSDOT Construction Manual outlining the importance of our project engineers explaining this requirement during preconstruction conferences.
- WSDOT has launched an investigation to determine whether any WSDOT employees were involved in alcohol use at the floating bridge office.
I am proud of the hard work and dedication of WSDOT employees and contractors working on WSDOT projects. Just like our work on Washington highways, when we find something wrong, we fix it. This situation is no different.
I appreciate and share your concern about this issue. Please know that alcohol or drug use is not acceptable within WSDOT projects and workplaces. This issue is receiving attention at all levels to ensure that our policies are upheld.
Paula Hammond, P.E.
Secretary, Washington State Department of Transportation