Hidden camera shows workers on 520 Bridge project drinking on job
BELLEVUE, Wash. -- Drinking on the job is both illegal and potentially dangerous. But a KOMO 4 Problem Solver hidden camera investigation discovered workers drinking on the largest construction job in the state: The 520 Bridge construction project.
Our hidden camera video tells the story: Numerous workers are shown with a beer in their hand, or at their desk, in the middle of the afternoon.
"People drink pretty heavily, I mean, it's all over the place," said our source, who asked to remain anonymous. She was at the site daily for two months, and was so disgusted by what she saw she asked us to step in. She told us people here drink every day of the week.
"Every day," she said. "On Monday through Thursday, some people have one, two, three. On Friday, it's a six-pack."
But this isn't just any business, it's the project headquarters for the 520 Bridge replacement. That's a $586 million contract ultimately paying for these workers to drink on the job.
"You would think that somebody, some supervisor, somebody would say, 'Hey we can't do this. This isn't allowed,' " our source said.
In fact, it's not allowed. State law prohibits alcohol in the workplace.
"Anything that clouds your judgment is going to be a problem," says Hector Castro, spokesman with the state Department of Labor & Industries. "State rules are very clear: Alcohol and drugs are prohibited from the workplace."
KGM, a joint venture firm of Kiewit, General and Manson contractors won the bid to design and build the 520 floating bridge. It's a complex and complicated project. All the design work and project oversight happens at the Bellevue project office on 112th Avenue NE. Both KGM and state Department of Transportation - WSDOT - employees work there in what's called a "co-located" office.
We went to the project office at 3 p.m. on Friday looking for the boss. While we were waiting -- to our amazement -- we saw two workers walk in the front door, each carrying a 12-pack of beer. Neither man would talk to us, nor would a third who was identified only as a manager. When we told this third individual we'd seen numerous people drinking on the job, some while working on their computers, and asked how common that practice is, he would only say, "I'm not commenting on any of that."
KGM's corporate spokesperson would not comment on camera, but emailed a statement saying, "We take these matters extremely seriously. We have initiated a full investigation and will take appropriate corrective action."
After reviewing our video, WSDOT Project Director Mike Cotten told me he doesn't believe it shows any state workers drinking but he is concerned.
"I've been with WSDOT 28 years now, I have never seen alcohol on the job site before," he said. When we asked if he was then surprised to see the drinking on our video he answered, "Yeah, I was a little surprised to see that there was alcohol."
Cotten says normally WSDOT and private contractors don't share office space, but that it makes sense because of the complexity of the 520 project. But that raises another questions about people working on this complex project while drinking alcohol. We asked if there a concern that complicated calculations might be done by people working under the influence? Cotten replied, "I think that's something that we need to take a look at," and added that "quality is a very important issue for WSDOT on all of our projects."
Both WSDOT and KGM are launching investigations. Labor and Industries may investigate as well. And because of our investigation, the head of WSDOT, Secretary Paula Hammond, today sent out an email to all state DOT workers reminding them of state law and the agency's policy: No alcohol, no drugs on any worksite.