Willow Island Aftermath: The Limits of OSHA

by Allen Morrison, Asst. Editor; Civil Engineering Magazine, ASCE World Headquarters, 345 East 47th Street, New York City, NY.,

Serial Information: Civil Engineering—ASCE, 1980, Vol. 50, Issue 3, Pg. 68-73

Document Type: Feature article


In April 1978 a natural-draft hyperbolic concrete cooling tower under construction at Willow Island, W.Va. collapsed. Fifty-one workers, suspended on a scaffold supported mainly by a layer of recently poured concrete, plunged 170 ft to their death, making this the worst construction accident in American history. This second of a two-part series on Willow Island examines: the efforts of the government and of the families to see justice served in the case; charges that OSHA's lack of enforcement at the site contributed to the disaster; the difficulties of establishing liability in the case, including a discussion of why the Justice Department dropped criminal proceedings against the employers; the views of experts in concrete construction on whether or not procedures followed at the site differ from standard industry practice; and what it will take to prevent similar disasters in the future.

Subject Headings: Islands | Construction sites | Concrete construction | Concrete | Occupational safety | Labor | Disasters and hazards

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