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Suffolk halts construction in wake of South Boston collapse and South End accident

The accidents were the latest in a string of construction mishaps in Boston in recent months.

A police car patrolled the site where three workers were injured Wednesday in South Boston.Erin Clark/Globe Staff

The region’s largest construction company is stopping all of its work in Boston on Friday for a safety review in the wake of a demolition accident that injured three workers in South Boston this week.

Construction giant Suffolk announced a stand-down Thursday “to reinforce job site safety awareness,” bringing to a temporary halt work on some of the city’s most prominent construction projects, including downtown’s Winthrop Center skyscraper, a new tower above South Station, and a multi-building complex on a deck over the Massachusetts Turnpike.

The voluntary stand-down is scheduled to last through Friday, Suffolk chief executive John Fish wrote in an e-mail to employees, though he raised the prospect that some projects could stay closed longer if necessary.

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“This Safety Standdown will include a comprehensive review and evaluation of existing safety standards and procedures,” Fish’s e-mail said. “In the event this evaluation requires more time for an individual job site, that site may remain closed until the review is complete and prepared to safely re-open.”

A view of the Winthrop Center Tower construction site in Boston with gate closed. David L. Ryan/Globe Staff

The move came a day after a catwalk collapsed at Suffolk’s jobsite at the old Boston Edison power plant in South Boston, and just hours after another accident Thursday at a Suffolk project in the South End, where a worker was hospitalized in stable condition after a fall.

The three injured workers in the South Boston accident are expected to survive, and authorities said Thursday that they detected no signs of “overt criminality” in the case. Investigations by the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration and the Suffolk County district attorney’s office are ongoing.

The incident is the second high-profile construction accident in Boston in a matter of weeks, following the March collapse of part of a nine-story parking deck at downtown’s Government Center Garage, which killed construction worker Peter Monsini. Construction workers also died on the job at an East Boston apartment building in October and at a Newton home last May.

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In remarks at the South Boston site on Wednesday, Mayor Michelle Wu said she was “angry” to be at another major construction accident.

“Every worker, every family member of workers across our city needto know that it cannot be a question whether your family will come home at night, whether they will be safe on the job,” she said.

Wu’s office had no immediate comment Thursday on Suffolk’s decision to halt work. Other major Boston construction companies did not return messages asking if they planned to follow suit.

Wednesday’s accident was nearly fatal. It took rescue workers 3½ hours to extricate one worker from the rubble.

Boston EMS Deputy Superintendent Steve McHugh said Thursday that a concrete slab 15 to 20 feet by 100 feet had pinned the man’s lower extremities, so paramedics sedated him and worked to keep him warm.

Then, McHugh said, rescuers discovered after the slab was removed that a separate beam still had the victim trapped. A surgical team was called to the scene, but after some discussion, rescuers “were able to get the patient out without utilizing the skills of the surgical team,” McHugh said.

First responders assessed the damage at the Edison Plant catwalk collapse Wednesday.Boston EMS

“We knew that the two paramedics involved were going to need to catch their breath and get a rest,” McHugh said. “Because these scenes, they have a physicality component to them, but the emotional component, I can tell you, is excessively draining for everyone involved.”

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The discovery of the beam still holding the man down after the removal of the slab, McHugh said, was one circumstance rescuers didn’t anticipate.

“When we thought we were at the finish line, we weren’t,” McHugh said. “It just seemed like the finish line became miles away when that beam was there. I can’t say enough about the firefighters and the paramedics that were in the mix, and the police officers, the Office of Emergency Management, the mayor was on scene. It really creates a community of caring.”

The workers were performing interior demolition work at the old power plant, which has been shut for years and is being redeveloped into a 15-acre complex of offices, apartments, and stores. Developers Hilco Redevelopment Partners and Redgate Real Estate hired Suffolk to be general contractor on the massive project. Typically, the general contractor hires subcontractors to perform various pieces of the work; it wasn’t immediately clear which company employed the three injured workers, but they are members of Building Wreckers Local 1421.

“Right now all we know is they’re with their families and our prayers are with them,” said Nancy Troy, an office manager for the union. “Beyond that, we really don’t know very much, and for the time being they’re staying with their families and trying to be close.”

Near the Edison plant in South Boston Thursday, one neighbor who identified himself as a former construction worker said he was struck by the “sadness” at the scene.

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“This should never have happened,” said the 74-year-old man, who would only give his first name, Joe, as he stood at the driveway in front of the gates at the plant. He left a bouquet of flowers in support of the wounded workers.

John R. Ellement of the Globe staff and correspondent Nick Stoico contributed to this report.


Catherine Carlock can be reached at catherine.carlock@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @bycathcarlock. Travis Andersen can be reached at travis.andersen@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @TAGlobe. Matt Yan can be reached at matt.yan@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @matt_yan12.