Deadly Scaffolding Accident Draws Attention to "Lives on the Line"�
One week ago, workers were dismantling a scaffold at a high-rise construction project when
a large piece of it fell to the ground in downtown Raleigh, N.C., killing three men and sending another to a hospital.
The accident involved equipment known as a mast climber scaffold, which moves up and down a building's facade to take workers to different floors. One of the tracks snapped off several stories up and fell into a twisted heap about 200 feet below.
The accident happened as subcontractor Associated Scaffolding was in the process of dismantling the scaffold on the building's exterior.
Following the tragedy, a group of workers gathered at the site of the accident, some holding signs. One sign made reference to the victims' reported status as immigrants who had come to North Carolina to work and send money back to his home.
That sign read, "While we run from a corrupt government, we put our lives on the line to chase the American dream. RIP fellow dreamers."
Police identified the dead men as Jose Erasmo Hernandez, 41, of Durham; Jose Luis Lopez-Ramirez, 33, of Clinton; and Anderson Almeida, 33, of Durham. A fourth man, Elmer Guevara, 53, was taken to WakeMed hospital, authorities said.
Our condolences to the families of the lives lost.
State Department of Labor spokesman Neal O'Briant said his agency is investigating. Officials had closed off a wide area around the scene. The State Department of Labor will conduct a formal investigation of the accident. The review might take up to six months.
Under state law, the Labor Department is empowered to review the causes of the accident and levy fines against the companies involved if any violations are found. At the end of that probe, the agency will issue a report of its findings.
Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) records show that Associated Scaffolding was issued serious safety violations twice in North Carolina in the past 10 years. A 2007 citation says it was related to access equipment for scaffold platforms, while a 2008 citation says the violation was related to storage of welding materials.
When I hear of horrible accidents like this, I immediately think of the families impacted by this tragedy. Imagine your husband, father, brother or son not coming home from the job. Imagine learning that your loved one fell 200 feet to his death while he was working to put food on the table. I can't imagine how devastated those people must feel.
According to OSHA, an estimated 2.3 million construction workers, or 65 percent of the construction industry, work on scaffolds. Protecting these workers from scaffold-related accidents may prevent some of the 4,500 injuries and over 60 deaths every year (Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), 2003 and 2004 data for the private sector), at a savings for American employers of $90 million in workdays not lost. In a recent BLS study, 72 percent of workers injured in scaffold accidents attributed the accident either to the planking or support giving way, or to the employee slipping or being struck by a falling object. All of these accidents can be controlled by compliance with OSHA standards.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics' Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries (CFOI) reported 54 fatalities occurred in the year 2009 from scaffolds, staging. In a Bureau of Labor and Statistics (BLS) study, 72% of workers injured in scaffold accidents attributed the accident either to the planking or support giving way, or to the employee slipping or being struck by a falling object. All of these can be controlled by compliance with OSHA standards.
Overview of OSHA Standard
When OSHA revised its scaffolds standard in 1996, studies showed that 25% of workers injured in scaffold accidents had received no scaffold safety training, and 77% of scaffolds were not equipped with guardrails. OSHA estimates that informed employers and workers, in compliance with correct safety standards, can save as many as 50 lives and prevent 4,500 accidents every year.
The OSHA standard sets performance-based criteria to protect employees from scaffold-related hazards such as falls, falling objects, structural instability, electrocution, or overloading. It also addresses training and various types of scaffolds, as well as falling object protection, ladders, weather conditions, aerial lifts, stilts, and other matters that are not covered in OSHA's previous scaffolding standards. In addition, it allows employers more flexibility when using protective systems for workers on scaffolding.
In the case of this tragedy last week in Raleight, we don't know if the workers were properly trained or wearing the correct Personal Protective Equipment (PPE).
Arbill offers an effective approach to minimize fall hazard exposure and ensure that your safety goals are met. Our recommendations are practical, realistic and offer a range of options.
Arbill's Vantage Fall Hazard Risk Assessment solutions include:
Process Equipment Design Modifications
Elevated Work Platforms
Our skilled team of Vantage professionals, which includes Structural/Professional Engineers and Fabricators/Installers, partner with your Safety and Facilities personnel to address potential fall hazards. For more information about Fall Hazard Risk Assessment, please call 800.523.5367 or visit www.arbill.com.
Photo credit: The News and Observer/Harry Lynch AP.