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January 16, 2013

Construction Disasters in American History
Filed under: safety — Tags: — nedpelger

I decided to take my own advice to slow down, so I’m taking my youngest daughter for a two day ski trip. I’m sure I’ll be going much slower than her. Here’s a guest blog that I found thought provoking.

Construction continues to be one of the most dangerous professions in the world, claiming thousands of lives to date. Construction safety is often overlooked and the results are sometimes disastrous. Here’s at a look at some of the worst construction accidents in American History:

The Hoover Dam

With the Hoover Dam weighing in at 6.6 million tons, it’s not hard to imagine that there were a lot of worker fatalities during the construction process. One estimate puts the total death toll at 112, with the first death being surveyor J.G Tierny in 1922. Tierny drowned in the Colorado River while scouting the best location for the dam. Although this was eight year before the dam’s construction began, some still group it with the rest of the construction deaths. Ironically,  Tierny’s son Patrick was the LAST person to die during the dam’s construction, falling to his death exactly 13 years to the day of J.G Tierny’s death.

Willow Island

One of the worst construction disasters in American history was the accident that occurred at Willow Island, West Virginia in 1978. During the construction of a cooling tower the scaffolding collapsed, causing 51 workers to fall to their deaths. The day of the incident OSHA visited the site to make assessments and determine why the disaster occurred. They determined there was a lack of ladders for escape, bolts were loose or missing on certain parts of the structure, and concrete was not given enough time to properly settle. The Willow Island incident is an unsettling look at what happens when construction jobs are rushed and improperly monitored for safety.

Hawk’s Nest Tunnel

One of the most notoriously disastrous construction sites in American history is the Hawk’s Nest Tunnel. However the incident that occurred at Hawk’s Nest Tunnel wasn’t necessarily a physical disaster.  Construction began in 1927 to create a 3-4 mile tunnel that would help generate power for a local plant downstream. During the construction silica was discovered, a mineral used for creating glass products. Workers were then asked to start mining the silica, and almost none of them received the proper breathing equipment for inhaling the dust. The results were deadly- workers became ill with silicosis, a deadly lung disease that attacks the lungs. The biggest toll estimates the number at over 1000 deaths, although that’s a lot more than the more conservative estimate of 476.

East 51st Street

In 2008 a fatal incident occurred in New York City during the construction of a 40 story apartment building on East 51st Street. Workers were attaching a steel collar in order to raise a tower crane higher when it snapped and fell, killing seven people. The accident was one of the worst in modern New York history, and construction on the building has been halted ever since.

Jason Kane writes about the importance of ladders, safety lanyards and construction safety equipment in general.


September 23, 2008

Visions of Safety
Filed under: safety — Tags: — nedpelger

Yesterday I walked through a doorway and almost got speared by a skid loader. The operator was spreading stone and had the bucket at his eye level, so he couldn’t see me. You would have laughed if you saw me leap back through that door I had just sauntered through a second before.

The funny thing is that I was thinking about safety as I was walking around the jobsite. I had just crawled up a ladder that wasn’t properly tied off and I wasn’t satisfied with the level of fall protection on the mezzanines. Of course it wasn’t the skid loader operator’s fault that I was daydreaming on the job. It was just a real time reminder that construction sites, no matter how comfortable we get on them, remain dangerous places.

When I got back to the office, a friend, Bob Swords, sent me some photos (I don’t know who took them so I can’t properly credit them) that made me laugh. This is from the “At least we’re not as bad as that” school of thinking.

SaranWrap Goggles

SaranWrap Goggles

Unique Fall Protection System

Unique Fall Protection System

Foam Hardhats

Foam Hardhats

Just needs a bit more of a lift...

Just needs a bit more of a lift...

Bracing a ladder

Bracing a ladder

So as you hurry around on your jobsite today, thinking of too many things at once, stop, take a breath. Remember that you don’t want this to be somebody’s last day alive because you were too busy to think. Don’t compromise on safety.