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Officials to investigate worker safety at Malden welding firm

A nine-alarm Back Bay fire claimed the lives of two Boston firefighters last month.

Essdras M Suarez/Globe Staff

A nine-alarm Back Bay fire claimed the lives of two Boston firefighters last month.

The welding company linked by authorities to a nine-alarm Back Bay fire that took the lives of two Boston firefighters last month is now facing an investigation into the safety and health of its employees by the federal workplace safety agency, an official said Thursday.

D&J Iron Works of Malden had been hired by the owners of 296 Beacon St. to install an iron railing at the rear of its building, which faces the Charles River. Driven by high winds, sparks from welding associated with the job spread to wooden shingles on the adjacent building at 298 Beacon St., igniting the massive fire on March 26, city officials have said.

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Fire Lieutenant Edward J. Walsh Jr., 43, and Firefighter Michael R. Kennedy, 33, rushed into the eight-apartment building. where they became trapped in the basement, despite rescue efforts by their colleagues.

Their deaths are under investigation by Suffolk District Attorney Daniel F. Conley’s office, the Fire Department, and the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health.

The new, and separate, investigation by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration into workers at the Malden firm was disclosed by an agency spokeman in an e-mail to the Globe.

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“OSHA has launched an inspection specifically into the safety and health of the company’s employees,’’ wrote Andre J. Bowser, spokesman for the regional office of the Department of Labor. “No further information is releasable regarding the inspection until it has been completed.’’

The federal safety and health agency’s inquiry into the welding company’s operations comes after the owner of 298 Beacon St. filed suit against the firm and the company that owns 296 Beacon St., Oliver Realty LP, according to papers filed in Suffolk Superior Court.

In court papers, the estate of Michael J. Callahan blamed both companies for the fire, and said it will need $4.2 million to rebuild its 298 Beacon St. property, which was fully occupied at the time of the blaze.

The lawsuit accuses the welding company of failing to keep a fire extinguisher at the site or to place fire-resistant shields or guards over anything that would be combustible. Fire officials said the welding company never applied for a permit for the work.

Richard C. Bardi, an attorney for the welding company and its owner, Giuseppe Falcone, told the Globe earlier this week that investigators have not reached final conclusions about the fire, and he urged the public to do the same.

Bardi could not be reached for comment on the OSHA investigation.

Maria Cramer can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @globemcramer. John R. Ellement can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @JREbosglobe.
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