State regulators have cited and fined a Watsonville-based firm for a June 22 incident when a concrete truck flipped and trapped the driver along El Camino Real in Palo Alto.
The California Division of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal/OSHA) found that Graniterock failed to ensure that a concrete mixer truck would be operated at a safe speed that wouldn't endanger the driver, according to the Dec. 21 citation. The company was fined $600.
Graniterock was a subcontractor hired to deliver various concrete mixes to the site, which were used to install forms and reinforcing steel for a 62,616-square-foot commercial building and a two-level garage at 2600 El Camino Real, the former site of a Brutalist building. The truck was destined for an area to pump out concrete.
Two other Graniterock had made successful four deliveries to the same location prior to the incident, according to Cal/OSHA. But as the driver with the fifth load backed up on an earthen ramp, the truck rolled off and turned over, trapping him in the cab, according to the report. The driver said there was no flagger to spot him as he slowly backed up to the ramp.
There were also impediments that caused the drivers to zigzag to the pumping site: a concrete column and stacks or crates of rebar, the report said. The driver steered the truck within a few inches of a stack of rebar that was jutting into the driveway on his passenger side. About halfway past the back end of the rebar stack, he felt his left rear tires sinking and the ramp soil gave way, according to the inspection report.
But one witness, a representative for the developer, Sand Hill Property Company, who was sitting at a desk in a trailer, contradicted the driver's account. The witness saw the truck drive off the ramp at fast speeds, the report noted.
The driver told inspectors that the concrete mix had about 15 minutes of life left in it but needed 30 minutes to be unloaded. Those conditions would likely have resulted in the city building inspector rejecting the rest of the load, the report said. Cal/OSHA concluded that the driver might have been going faster because of the short time period. Thickening concrete can also shift weight in the truck.
Palo Alto fire Battalion Chief Kevin McNally said in June that the 10-wheeled cement truck was "literally 180-degrees upside down." Rescuers used hydraulic cutting tools to reach the driver and to extricate him from the vehicle.
The driver was transported to Stanford Hospital but was not admitted for his injuries, according to the Cal/OSHA report. He did not have any fractures, but in December he still had numbness in his left-hand fingers, which was being evaluated by his doctor, according to the report.
Michael Herges, safety manager at Graniterock, said he could not comment on the findings and penalty.
Cal/OSHA records show that since 2015, the company has had 14 inspections, some routine and others based on complaints or incidents. Graniterock been investigated for four accidents, including a fatality. The most notable incident occurred in February 2017. A road-crew employee removing mudslide debris in Scotts Valley was struck and killed by a backing dump truck. An engineer was also struck by the truck and hospitalized with fractures, according to an inspection report. Cal/OSHA fined the company $32,435 for violating codes related to the company's injury-and-illness-protection program. Graniterock is contesting the fine.
The company is also contesting a $970 fine stemming from a February complaint related to gas- or compressed-liquid storage violations. The most recent case, this past August at its Aromas quarry, remains open. No details about the complaint are currently on file on the agency's database.