A construction worker was recovering early this week from injuries sustained at a Bethany Beach construction site.
A ladder failure caused the fall on Friday, March 18, while the sub-contractor was working in the 300 block of Wellington Parkway, according to project contractor Gary Cottingham of Cottingham Construction.
Paramedics from Millville Volunteer Fire Company’s ambulance service, stationed at the Bethany Beach Volunteer Fire Company (BBVFC), responded to the incident and transported the victim several blocks to an open area across from the town hall. There, a Maryland State Police (MSP) helicopter landed and quickly transported him to trauma treatment facilities in Salisbury, Md.
While still on the scene of the transport, BBVFC Chief Richard Parrett said the distance of the fall had been estimated at 15 feet. He said paramedics had deemed the victim’s condition serious enough to call for the MSP helicopter and plan for his transport at least as far as Salisbury.
Members of the BBVFC and Bethany Beach Police Department assisted with the transport, blocking off traffic for the ambulance transport and controlling the helicopter-landing site in the area just adjacent to the Route 1/Route 26 intersection.
Cottingham said this week that the sub-contractor’s injuries had been limited primarily to a broken collarbone and that he was “doing fine.”
The incident was the first of two construction-site accidents in Bethany Beach on March 18. The second involved a fire, in which a worker received first- and second-degree burns to his hands and face.
Bethany Beach Building Inspector John Eckrich said Monday that he hadn’t received a report on the fire-related injury and was aware of the fall primarily as a result of the helicopter airlift, which took place adjacent to his office at the town hall. Two such serious construction accidents in the town on a single day would be decidedly unusual.
Eckrich noted that the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is the primary oversight entity for construction-site safety issues, with town officials involved minimally or not at all. Eckrich said he, as the town’s building inspector, generally limits his involvement in safety issues to brief reminders given to contractors when issuing permits or visiting a site for other reasons.
According to Echrich, it is common practice for local construction workers on a second or third story to eschew the wearing of safety harnesses or tethers, despite what he said is a requirement from OSHA for such on unenclosed work at heights above 6 feet (even when working from a ladder).
(Notably, OSHA requirements do make some allowances for situations in which the use of such fall-protection systems is deemed to create a greater hazard than the work conditions themselves.)
Eckrich said workers performing duties at great heights – such as those working on roofs at the high-rises at Sea Colony – do routinely use a fall-protection system. And Bethany Beach public works employees have also gotten in the habit of using a harness and tether, he noted, even when working just at second-story heights to hang banners for special events.
But considering the lack of tether use at most construction sites in the area, Eckrich said it was surprising there are not more accidents of this nature. Indeed, he said the most increasingly common construction-site injuries in the area were those related to the use of “air-nailers,” often involving a slip or misfire of the tool.