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Not Strangers to Danger

THURSDAY, OCTOBER 25, 2012

By Karen Kapsanis


Maybe you’ve had this experience, too: I have a hard time forgetting accidents that happen close to home, especially when the accidents are fatal and especially when I know the victim.

A little more than 18 years ago, my next-door neighbor died in a house fire. I remember the date. I remember the fireman’s sad face as he walked slowly out of the house, looking at the paramedics and shaking his head. I remember a TV news reporter coming to my house that night to interview me. I remember asking him to leave. I remember my neighbor’s black and white cat returning to the boarded-up house, sitting on the porch, waiting, refusing to move.

Accidents, particularly when they are close to home, are hard to forget.

All in the Family

It seems that every accident in the industry is, in one way or another, close to home. After all, high-performance coating work is a relatively small industry with many family-run businesses, small or large. And over the years, I have met coatings professionals who don’t work in a family business but refer to the industry as a kind of family.

Maybe that explains why, in our sister publication, PaintSquare News, the stories often getting the most comments are the saddest ones—those involving accidents that cause injuries and death on the jobsite. You may have commented yourself or have anguished as you read about the death of someone you knew.

 Four workers were killed in a garage collapse earlier this month in Doral, FL. In a niche industry, each death hits hard.

 NBC-Chicago

Four workers were killed in a garage collapse earlier this month in Doral, FL. In a niche industry, each death hits hard.

Painters, blasters, and other crew members have died from a variety of things gone wrong: falls from scaffolds, suffocation because of inadequate respiratory protection, explosions inside confined spaces, for example.

And although the construction industry in the U.S. does have a high fatality rate, risks in painting and blasting work aren’t limited to construction sites. Steel coating and fabrication shops, regulated under OSHA’s general industry standards, can pose plenty of risks to workers.

Risky Business

I believe that some accidents on the job, as in other professions and as in all manner of life, happen no matter how many precautions we take.

But whether in the shop or the field, worker deaths and injuries often result from unsafe practices or conditions. So we all have to promote safe practice, even when part of doing so means reporting on deaths and injuries on the job.

I find it remarkable that painting contractors in the shop and field put themselves at risk every day in inherently dangerous work. We should remember and respect the risks all those workers take as clearly as we remember the deaths of those who are near to us. Remembering and mitigating the risks could help save lives.

Accidents are tragic for the victims, as well as painfully hard for the survivors to forget, particularly when the deaths are close to home.

And in one way or another, accidents in our industry are close to home.

ABOUT THE BLOGGER

Karen Kapsanis

Karen Kapsanis was the Editor in Chief of the Journal of Protective Coatings & Linings when these blogs were written. Post-JPCL, Karen remains an inexplicably lifelong fan of the Green Bay Packers and a surprisingly speedy sprinter.

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Tagged categories: Abrasive blasting; Accidents; Construction; Health & Safety; Health and safety; Industrial Contractors

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