Chickamauga Lock worker injured after concrete detaches, falls on him

Chickamauga Lock worker injured after concrete detaches, falls on him

October 16th, 2018 by Tyler Jett in Local Regional News

Looking south, the Chickamauga Lock project is well underway with Heeter Geo Technical Construction crews working to remove 100,000 cubic yards of mostly limestone rock for the locks' replacement. "We are removing 100,000 cubic yards of rock from the 100-foot wide, 900-foot long area," Dewayne Ponds said. Ponds is project geologist for the US Army Corps of Engineers. (Staff photo by Tim Barber)

Photo by Tim Barber /Times Free Press.

U.S. Department of Labor officials are still waiting for more information about why a chunk of concrete fell off a wall at the Chickamauga Lock Replacement Project, dropping on an unsuspecting worker's neck.

Kyle Phillips, a field engineer for Heeter Geotechnical Construction, said he was doing quality control around 2 p.m on Oct. 2 while a couple of workers sprayed shotcrete on a wall. Shotcrete is a concrete mix that is sprayed onto a wall with special pieces of equipment. Phillips' job was to measure the new shotcrete, making sure it was at least 4 inches thick.

He said he had just finished a measurement. He turned around to the workers, standing in a basket, and gave them a thumbs up. Then he lost consciousness. He is not sure what knocked him out — the chunk of concrete that hit him, or the piece of equipment he fell onto.

He said he fractured a vertebra and an orbital bone. The impact also broke his fibula and tore some ligaments in his ankle and neck.

"I feel like (there were safety failures)," he told the Times Free Press on Tuesday. "It's not something that should happen on an everyday basis. Safety precautions were not followed, I don't feel."

According to Occupational Safety and Health Administration, Heeter was supposed to provide a report on the injury by Monday. If OSHA is not satisfied with the response, its area director can conduct a separate investigation.

On Monday, Department of Labor spokesman Michael D'Aquino said OSHA has requested more information from Heeter after reviewing the report. The company has a week to respond.

Jim Cunningham, general counsel for Shaft Drillers International, a company over Heeter, declined to comment Tuesday.

"We did have an accident," he said. "It is currently under investigation. At this point in time, we don't have anything else to comment on."

In September 2016, the U.S. Army Corps. of Engineers awarded a $33.5 million contract to Heeter, which is tasked with digging out about 100,000 cubic yards of rock at the site of the new Chickamauga Lock. Located on the Tennessee River, the navigation lock will be about 110 feet wide and 600 feet long. It will be a boon to the local shipping industry, speeding up the process of moving up and down the river.

On Oct. 2, after the concrete fell on Phillips, a worker called 911, according to a recording obtained through an open records request.

"He's awake, and he's talking," she said. "But he's not able to walk on one leg. It fell, like, right on his head."

Contact staff writer Tyler Jett at 423-757-6476 or tjett@timesfreepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @LetsJett.


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