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New York bridge worker safety concerns addressed

Last month, two serious and separate worker safety incidents occurred on a single New York bridge repair site. In response to these incidents, the worksite was shut down until the risks plaguing the bridge workers were addressed properly. Bridge construction and repair work is uniquely dangerous due to risk of serious fall injury and unique structural concerns. As the nation looks to rebuild, tear down and repair tens of thousands of structurally deficient bridges, it is time for state and federal regulators to focus on bridge worker safety.

The executive director of the New York State Bridge Authority recently noted in regards to last month’s safety incidents that, “Thankfully, neither recent incident resulted in a tragedy. Now, we need to do everything we can to make sure it stays that way."

Part of the authority’s effort to promote safety on this site and others is to outfit workers with personal alarms. Many workers will also be retrained in certain safety procedures. For example, workers will stage a rescue drill as part of emergency procedure review and will receive a refresher on how to properly utilize personal fall-protection gear.

The personal alarms that bridge workers will now have access to operate in many of the same ways as those used by firefighters and law enforcement. They can be used to send alerts manually by workers and will also automatically send alerts to supervisors when workers remain inactive for a specific period of time. Given that bridge work is uniquely dangerous, providing these alarms and retraining workers seems like the least that the authority can do to ensure their safety.

Source: RecordOnline, “New measures in place for bridge work safety,” Judy Rife, June 19, 2013

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