Morgantown, WV: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Public Health Service, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, FACE 98-21, 1998 Sep; :1-12
On June 23, 1998, a male 29-year-old tower painter (the victim) died and his 16-year-old male co-worker was seriously injured when, due to winch failure, they slid 900 feet down a guy wire anchor. The workers were painting the sixth highest of nine guy wires on one side of a 2,000-foot television broadcast tower. The victim and co-worker entered the man basket at the guy wire ground anchor, 1/4 mile from the tower, and were raised to the sixth guy wire. The owner was operating the winch 1/4 mile away form the opposite side of the tower. As the workers were preparing to paint, the basket suddenly jerked then began to slide backward down the guy wire. As the basket began to accelerate, the victim radioed the owner to stop the basket. The owner pulled as hard as he could on the handbrake lever. Then that failed to slow the winch's cable spool, the owner tried to jam a wooden handle into the winch's gearbox. This action caused the components inside the gearbox to shatter as the man basket continued to slide down on the basket's floor, then the victim lay down on top of the co-worker. The basket fell until it struck the base of the guy wire anchor. The victim was thrown from the basket and wedged between two hairpins anchoring the guy wire. The injured co-worker unhooked his lanyard and crawled from the an basket. When the basket disappeared from view behind the trees, the groundsman got into his truck and drove to the guy wire anchor point. He placed the injured co-worker in the truck and drove him back to the tower. The owner summoned the emergency medical service (EMS) from a cellular phone, then stayed with the injured co-worker while the groundsman returned to the victim. When the EMS arrived they removed the victim form between the hairpins and summoned the county coroner, who pronounced the victim dead at the scene. The co-worker was transported to the local hospital where he was treated. NIOSH investigators concluded that, to prevent similar deaths and injuries, employers should: Ensure that hoisting equipment used to lift personnel is designed to prevent uncontrolled descent and rated for these purposes. Maintain and inspect hoist according to manufacturers' specifications to ensure proper functioning. Know and comply with child labor laws which include prohibitions against work by youth less than 18 years of age in occupations which are declared by the Secretary of Labor to be particularly hazardous. Develop, implement, and enforce a comprehensive written safety program. Additionally, manufacturers of guy wire material should: Continue research and development of materials that would not require periodic painting.