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Bridge painters will now wear personal alarm systems

A device used to keep firefighters safe could also help prevent injuries and deaths among painters at a jobsite in New York. Workers who are involved in the lengthy process of blasting paint off a steel bridge and repainting the structure will be required to wear personal alarm systems, the New York State Bridge Authority announced recently. The systems could protect the workers in the event of falls from heights or other construction accidents.

The personal alarm systems are small devices that can be configured to send a message to supervisors if a worker intentionally pushes the button, remains inactive for a short period of time or if the safety equipment disconnects. The systems have been used to boost the safety of firefighters and others in dangerous occupations. The cost is about $900 a unit.

The devices were added after two construction worker accidents on the bridge. In May, two painters employed by a contractor fell off a steel sheet and were caught by their safety harnesses. They were rescued within a few minutes. The accident was blamed on poor coordination between two crews working within the containment system, which is designed to prevent paint particles and dust from leaving the worksite.

In June, another painter for the contractor was found suspended by his safety harness next to a site where he had been removing paint. He was under the deck of the bridge and inside the containment area. Authorities do not know how long he had been dangling in the harness. News reports did not provide the extent of any injuries. Authorities are examining how the incident happened, but said there were no equipment or safety device failures.

Source: Poughkeepsie Journal, "Newburgh-Beacon Bridge workers to get safety devices," June 19, 2013

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