Laborer, Pipefitter, and Utility Foreman Crushed by Falling Block Wall—Tennessee
NIOSH FACE Report 2014-02
January 30, 2018
On April 18, 2013, a 24-year-old Hispanic laborer and a 37-year-old Hispanic pipefitter were crushed by a falling block wall when it failed; they died immediately of their injuries. A 46-year-old utility foreman was also injured in the incident. At the time of the incident, the laborer was applying caulking to the expansion joints of a block wall, and the pipefitter and the utility foreman were installing piping for the building’s sprinkler system in a trench next to the block wall. A wind gust caused the block wall to fall onto the laborer, pipefitter, and utility foreman. The project superintendent called 911, and emergency medical services were dispatched and arrived at the incident within 4 minutes. The laborer and pipefitter were pronounced dead at the scene, and the utility foreman was airlifted to a local hospital.
Occupational injuries and fatalities are often the result of one or more contributing factors or key events in a larger sequence of events that ultimately result in the injury or fatality. NIOSH investigators identified the following unrecognized hazards as key contributing factors in this incident:
- Deviation from engineering drawings
- Inadequate inspection of rebar placement
- Inadequate bracing for the block wall
- Wall height extending too far above the bracing
- Worker proximity to unbraced block wall
- Lack of competent person to monitor wind speed
- Inadequate training related to masonry wall safety
NIOSH investigators concluded that, to help prevent similar occurrences, employers should:
- Ensure that employees follow the engineering/architectural drawings during building construction and obtain engineering approval before plan changes are made.
- Develop and follow a masonry wall bracing plan, train employees on proper masonry wall bracing, and ensure masonry walls are properly braced throughout the project.
- Develop and implement a restricted/limited access zone.
- Train workers on the hazards of working around unsupported masonry walls.
- Assign a competent person trained to monitor wind speeds.
- Schedule work tasks to limit exposure of nonessential workers to hazards posed by masonry walls under construction.
The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), an institute within the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), is the federal agency responsible for conducting research and making recommendations for the prevention of work-related injury and illness. In 1982, NIOSH initiated the Fatality Assessment and Control Evaluation (FACE) Program. FACE examines the circumstances of targeted causes of traumatic occupational fatalities so that safety professionals, researchers, employers, trainers, and workers can learn from these incidents. The primary goal of these investigations is for NIOSH to make recommendations to prevent similar occurrences. These NIOSH investigations are intended to reduce or prevent occupational deaths and are completely separate from the rulemaking, enforcement and inspection activities of any other federal or state agency. Under the FACE program, NIOSH investigators interview persons with knowledge of the incident and review available records to develop a description of the conditions and circumstances leading to the deaths in order to provide a context for the agency’s recommendations. The NIOSH summary of these conditions and circumstances in its reports is not intended as a legal statement of facts. This summary, as well as the conclusions and recommendations made by NIOSH, should not be used for the purpose of litigation or the adjudication of any claim. For further information, visit the program website at www.cdc.gov/niosh/face/ or call toll free at 1-800-CDC-INFO (1-800-232-4636).