Thousands of New York residents use the state’s bridges every day, confident in their safety and without ever thinking about the work it takes to maintain such vital infrastructure. Unfortunately, the workers charged with the task of keeping these bridge in good condition aren’t always in a similarly safe position.
In two separate incidents in May and June, New York saw two alarming work-related accidents on the Newburgh-Beacon Bridge, which is undergoing restoration. In the first incident, two bridge painters slipped off the side of a steel sheet being installed. Fortunately, their safety harnesses prevented them plunging in the Hudson and they were quickly rescued.
In the second incident, taking place just two weeks later, a painter was found suspended by his safety harness in a containment area under the deck of the bridge where he was blasting away paint. It is unknown how long the worker was dangling before being discovered and rescued. He was airlifted to a local hospital where he was treated for undisclosed injuries. It is still unknown how the accident happened.
As a result of these incidents, the New York State Bridge Authority (NYSBA) issued a release stating that while the restoration project continues workers blasting paint off steel will wear personal alarm systems. These devices, sometimes used by firefighters, will alert project supervisors in the event the worker intentionally pushes the button, suffers a falls, remains inactive for a period of time, or if the safety equipment becomes disconnected.
Workers will be trained on how to use the alarms as soon as they are received. The NYSBA also noted that until the alarms arrive there will be additional supervisors and spotters in the containment area of the bridge.
Kudos to the NYSBA for taking swift action to enhance the safety of their workers. Workplace injuries and workers’ compensation claims can be avoided when employers continually seek for new ways to keep workers safe and make it the number one priority.