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Tower Painter Survives 80-Foot Fall

Thursday, February 10, 2011

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A Pennsylvania industrial painter fell 80 feet to the ground and a fellow painter was left dangling in mid-air by his safety harness when their scaffolding gave way as they were painting a standpipe water tank in Culpeper, VA.

Culpeper water tank

The injured worker, a 38-year-man from Muse, PA, was conscious and talking to rescue workers after the accident Wednesday (Feb. 9) morning. He was airlifted to the University of Virginia Medical Center for treatment, but his condition and injuries were not released.

The painters were working on the tank exterior from a scaffold inside a containment tarp, and co-workers said the tarp may have broken the man’s fall.

The painter left dangling from the top of the tower—a 48-year-old man from Meadville, PA—was rescued safely a short time later and was not injured. Authorities and the painters’ employer declined to release their names.

Cable Slipped

The Virginia Occupational Safety and Health Compliance (VOSH) office is investigating, officials said Thursday (Feb. 10).

The accident occurred about 9:45 a.m. Wednesday, when a scaffold cable loop apparently failed at the top of the tank, sending the man plummeting to the ground, a grassy surface that was cold but not frozen, said town spokesman Wally Bunker.

“The cable supporting the scaffolding was connected to the top of the water tank with a loop in the cable secured with a crimp connection,” Bunker said. “Possibly, the crimp connection was not tight enough, and the cable pulled out.” The cable did not break, Bunker said.

Fall Protection Unknown

The painters were part of a five-member crew employed by D&M Painting Co. of Washington, PA.

It could not be determined whether the painter who fell was wearing any fall-protection system. VOSH would not say, Bunker did not know, and D&M refused to discuss the incident Thursday.

Bunker said D&M began work early last week on painting the interior and exterior of the town’s three elevated water tanks. The project, awarded as a low bid, had proceeded without incident until Wednesday, Bunker said. Interior painting on the first tank was complete, and the exterior painting was well underway.

Work resumed later that day.

Bunker said the town had not worked with D&M before.

A check of OSHA records shows just one closed case by the company involving one serious and four other-than-serious violations in 2006, for which the company paid a $160 fine. The record shows no open cases or other violations.

   

Tagged categories: Accidents; Fall protection; Health and safety; OSHA; Protective coatings; Scaffolding; Tank exteriors; Water Tanks

Comment from Duane Mensch, (2/11/2011, 10:44 AM)

If the man fell from the scaffold, he obviously was NOT tied off. It's sad to see someone get injured or killed due to a lack of safety, which is usually an oversight in the pursuit of production and the almighty dollar. I had recently been "let go" by a co. who claimed that I had been working men unsafely. However untrue that may have been, the fact that it is a constant and sometimes near-impossible task keeping workers safe and TRAINED with so many different cultural differences, language barriers, and just plain ignorance of the safe approach to accomplishing a task at hand is the daily reality of an industrial painting project, no matter how small or how large. I woould like to offer some small contribution as I'm sure he will be struggling through the next few months, and I hope others will follow suit. Thank you.


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