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Laborer falls 48 feet to his death while painting inside of empty storage silo.

Indiana State Department of Health
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 96IN123, 1997 Feb; :1-4
On September 20, 1996, a 28-year-old male laborer/painter (the victim) fell nearly 48 feet to his death while painting the inside of a storage silo. The 48-foot silo, empty at the time of the fatal incident, is normally used to store tiny plastic pellets used in the manufacturing of plastic soda bottles. It had previously had been sandblasted in preparation for painting. The interior of the silo is accessed by ascending an enclosed fixed ladder system on the outside and entering through a 20-inch opening in the top. The co-worker on top of the storage silo stated that around 2:00 p.m., when they were ending their day, he started the winch to bring the victim up to the 20" opening in the top of the tank. The victim was near the top of the silo when the co-worker heard something snap but was not sure what it was. The next thing the co-worker knew, the victim and safety rope were plummeting 48 feet to the bottom of the silo. Investigation after the event revealed that the end of the winch line secured to the boatswain's chair had pulled out of the improperly positioned U-bolts allowing the victim to fall. A computer printout run sheet shows that the local fire department was called at 14:06 and arrived on the scene at 14:11. After local fire personnel used a fan to clear out hazardous paint fumes in the bottom of the tank, an advanced EMT-firefighter verified that the victim's vital signs were non-existent. Because the local fire department did not have a confined space rescue team, it was necessary to call a department from a neighboring county to extricate the victim's body. The confined space rescue team initially thought the safety rope had broken but found it still tied to the victim with eight to ten feet of slack. The safety rope, comprised of two lengths and sizes, measured 83' 3". Evidence indicates the victim fell just under 48 feet. These facts make it clear that the victim's life could not have been saved with the PPE he was wearing at the time of the fatal incident. The FACE investigator concluded that, in order to prevent similar incidents, employers and employees involved in work at elevations should: 1. Ensure that a boatswain's chair seat is of at least minimum dimensions and properly reinforced on the underneath side by cleats and that it is properly secured to an adequate suspension system. 2. Perform a hazard evaluation at each work site before any work is initiated. 3. Train employees in the recognition of hazardous work conditions and provide methods to control such hazards, including the use of appropriate PPE for fall protection.
Region-5; Accident-analysis; Accident-prevention; Accidents; Injuries; Injury-prevention; Painters; Painting; Traumatic-injuries
Publication Date
Document Type
Field Studies; Fatality Assessment and Control Evaluation
Funding Type
Cooperative Agreement
Fiscal Year
NTIS Accession No.
NTIS Price
Identifying No.
FACE-96IN123; Cooperative-Agreement-Number-U60-CCU-508672
SIC Code
Source Name
National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health
Performing Organization
Indiana State Department of Health
Page last reviewed: September 2, 2020
Content source: National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health Education and Information Division