With Two Painter Fatalities in Two Weeks, It’s Time to Review Your Safety Practices

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It’s been a painful few weeks for painters.

In late October, a mural painter fell to his death while working on a swing stage alongside the 41-story Hyde Resort & Residences luxury beachfront condominium in Hollywood, Fla. Two other painters were injured in the accident.

According to a report from the Miami News Times, a cable on the swing stage snapped and Raymond Willis Brown’s safety line was torn as the platform fell.

Work has begun anew at the condominium, while the Occupational Safety and Health Administration investigates the circumstances surrounding Brown’s death, as is customary following any worksite fatality.

Then on November 4, Rahssan Smith of Albany, N.Y., fell to his death while painting the Smith's Basin Bridge over the Champlain Canal.

Rahssan was one of five painting contractors working on the project for the state Department of Transportation. Local reports state that the painters were working from metal supports attached by cables to the under side of the bridge when a cable broke and the painters fell into the water below. The other four sustained injuries.

It’s a sober reminder to all painters to review their safety practices, particularly as it relates to safety harnesses.

“Just because you’ve got a fall protection harness on and you’re tied off doesn’t mean that you are safe,” points out Rob Vajko, marketing manager at National Safety Inc., a Washington-based supplier of safety suppliers. “There are numerous accidents each year that severely injure and even kill workers simply because they aren’t tied off correctly.”

Vajko provides the following pointers to consider in order to falls:

  • First, make sure the harness is properly cinched up and fits properly. If you’ve got a strong stomach you can go to https://www.scribd.com/doc/8981332/Loose-Fitting-Harness to see what happens when a fall is taken in a harness that isn’t properly cinched in the crotch area (WARNING: The images are very graphic).  A fall can generate several thousands of pounds of pressure to the body. If the harness isn’t snug enough to properly distribute that weight, you can end up injuring and damaging nerves, organs and muscles. If you aren’t sure how to properly adjust your harness, go to YouTube and search “fall protection harness donning.” There are numerous videos that will show you how to don and adjust your harness.
  • Next, you need to make sure that you harness is safe to wear. You should always do a visual inspection of your harness each and every time you put it on. Start by checking all the webbing, including the webbing behind pads and belts. Look for chemical stains and discoloration that might have weakened the fibers. Check for fraying, tears and loose fibers. Next check all the grommets to make sure that they are secure and not falling out or elongated, which might point to the fact that the harness has been in a fall; if it has these signs, retire it. Check all metal parts, like the D-rings and buckles. The general rule is that “if in doubt, throw it out.”
  • Finally, although many manufacturers put the shelf life of a harness at five years, your harness doesn’t have to be replaced that soon if you take proper care of it. Taking care of it means not using markers to label your harness, as the alcohol and chemicals in the markers can weaken and damage the webbing, causing premature deterioration. Check your harness for stains when you are done using it. Clean off any dirty areas. Don’t let the harness sit where that dirt and those chemicals have time to sink in and cause further damage. Store the harness properly in a designated bag. Don’t just throw it in the back of the pick-up with the all the dirty rags and tools.

“A fall protection harness isn’t a magic wand that will keep you from getting injured if you take a fall,” Vajko adds. “It’s a tool like any other and must be properly maintained and properly used. Treat it with respect and understand what it is and isn’t intended to do and it will last you for a long time and keep you safe.”

For more information to share with your team on proper swing stage procedures, visit OSHA’s site on suspended scaffolding.

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safety harness, OSHA

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