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Safety Precautions Fail on Irish Bridge

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

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Routine maintenance work on a bridge in Limerick, Ireland, turned tragic when three workers fell into the water, despite the safety precautions that were in place. Two of the three men perished.

The three men were performing structural work on the Thomond Bridge, one of Limerick’s oldest bridges, over the River Shannon when the accident occurred.

They were working from within a caged platform, which was supported by cable to a crane, suspended over the side of the bridge, the Irish Mirror reported Aug. 29.

The cable snapped, and the cage plunged into the water with the three men inside. All three men were reported to be wearing life jackets and fall arresting safety harnesses; however, their harnesses were tethered to the cage itself, according to the Irish Times account.

Emergency Call

After the fall, one of the three men was able to release his harness and escape, but the other two remained underwater for at least 10 minutes, according to reports.

Limerick City Fire and Rescue, an Irish Coast Guard rescue helicopter, a swift water rescue team, Limerick Marine Search and Rescue all responded to the emergency call.

According to the Mirror, the two men who were trapped were critically injured and were unconscious when the search and rescue and swift water rescue swimmers were able to free them from the cage.

Resuscitation attempts were made on site by paramedics as well as at University Hospital Limerick, where the two were pronounced dead.

The search and rescue team assisted in raising the cage itself from the water that evening.

The Workers

Limerick City and County Council told RTE News that the men were working for a company that had been contracted to perform remedial work on the bridge, which had only begun that Monday.

In a follow-up report from the Times on Monday (Aug. 31), the victims were identified as TJ Herlihy, age 36, and Brian Whelan, age 29. Paul Murphy, 36, survived.

Herlihy was on his first day on this job, having just moved back to Ireland from Sweden. It was reported that he was not scheduled to start work until the following week but had been called in to work the weekend.

The site remains closed while investigations continue under the authority of An Garda Síochána and the Health and Safety Authority.

The Repair Project

Earlier this year, the Limerick Leader had reported on the Limerick City and County Council’s plans to finance repairs to Limerick’s oldest bridge, dating back to 1840.

There were no significant concerns about the structural integrity of the bridge, but their attention had been drawn to scour damage to the bases of some piers that required repair.

The €230,000 (US $257,640) project is slated to encompass removal of vegetation; repointing masonry on piers and abutments; repairing scour damage and installing protection around the bases of the piers as well as repairing a wing wall.

   

Tagged categories: Accidents; Asia Pacific; Bridge Piles; Bridges; Cranes; EMEA (Europe, Middle East and Africa); Health & Safety; Health and safety; Latin America; North America; Safety equipment; Work platform

Comment from john kern, (9/1/2015, 7:50 PM)

when working over water I find it difficult to hook in due to this happening more than once. I believe OSHA needs to rethink this issue and come up with a better solution such as a pressure release similar to what is installed on life rafts.


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