Eliminating the Dangers of Structural Collapse when Cleaning, Pointing and Painting

By Neil Kalra

Wall collapses can cause many catastrophic construction site accidents anytime. Workers can be buried under piles of dirt, rocks, walls, and equipment; often producing grisly injuries such as crushed bones, lost limbs, spinal cord injuries, brain damage, permanent disfigurement, and horrible deaths.

Wall collapses typically happen due to lack of proper reinforcement. Use of defective materials, imperfect building plans or designs, and substandard – or the total lack of – inspections can all lead to disastrous collapses. When walls are not properly braced, even moderately strong winds can regularly cause them to fail. Making sure walls are properly braced or enforced, that equipment is well-maintained and working properly, and wearing the proper safety equipment can all help reduce the risk of wall collapse injuries or death.

Structural collapse injuries can happen to workers who might be cleaning, pointing (performing masonry work) or painting a wall. Often, these tragedies occur when very old buildings are being restored. Not long ago a plasterer was killed in a Brooklyn wall collapse. The irony of this tragedy – according to an article in the New York Times - surrounded his conversations with friends and family member’s days before the accident occurred; saying he was afraid because he was convinced the structure was unsafe and that it was not being regularly inspected. Since then, other wall collapse tragedies have happened as recently as October, 2019.

Preventing Masonry Wall Collapses

Any wall can collapse if it is not properly built, maintained and supported. One hazard which can make wall collapses more likely is concrete and masonry (plastered) walls. Their tremendously heavy loads need to be supported. And over time, the materials which hold a wall together can erode and degrade: causing a collapse which injures or kills a plasterer, cleaner, mason or some other construction worker.

Workers on the job site must always be aware of these walls’ conditions: and if they believe them to be unsafe, notify their foreman or someone else in authority of their concerns. Workers (and property owners, contractors and site supervisors) should all know that to prevent injuries from collapsing masonry walls, all construction team members must be aware of and follow these OSHA recommendations:

  • Never place construction loads on a concrete structure until a qualified person confirms that the concrete can support it.

  • Shore or brace structures until permanent supporting elements are in place or until the concrete has been tested and proved to be sufficiently strong.

  • Only allow essential, actively engaged construction personnel in the work area.

And of course, all cleaning masonry and painting workers on the jobsite need to be observant of the condition of any walls and note any sudden shifting or changing conditions to the wall. They should also wear their personal protective equipment (PPE) at all times which includes any or all of the following: proper footwear, protective clothing, and hard hat. Workers who spray paint with unhealthy fumes must be provided with protection.

Often, especially when cleaning very old walls, toxic chemicals (lead, asbestos, plaster of Paris, silica, fiberglass, talc,1-trichloroethylene) may be present. Sandblasters also need to be especially aware of these chemicals which become part of the air they breathe: such as cement dust, silica, asphalt, and various solvents. Under these conditions when toxic fumes maybe in the air, the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) requires contractors to provide the proper ventilation to draw the fumes out of these often confined spaces. But in addition, any construction worker who is working on a wall should also have personal breathing apparatus’ and wear it at all times.

Whether you were, or a family member was, injured due to a construction, car, commercial vehicle, or semi-truck accident; you may be entitled to full benefits and compensation. Know your rights and get the answers you are entitled to.

The attorneys at Kalra Law Firm are dedicated to getting construction accident victims the compensation they deserve. Call our office now to speak with one of our experienced construction accident lawyers to represent you in your case. We offer a free initial consultation and will not charge unless we win your case. If you have any questions about your construction accident, call our New York City and Queens Construction accident lawyers today at (718) 897-2211. www.unionlawyer.com

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