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Injuries among construction workers during the raising of wood-framed walls - Colorado and California.

Gerhart-K; Heinzman-M; Johnson-R; Cook-M; Hoffman-RE; Reinisch-F; Osorio-AM; Rutherford-GW
JAMA J Am Med Assoc 1995 Feb; 273(5):372
In Colorado, traumatic spinal cord injuries that produce documentable motor, sensory, bowel, and/or bladder impairments must be reported to the state or local health department. Persons with such injuries are interviewed by staff of the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) Spinal Cord Injury Early Notification System (ENS)*; injuries that occur in workplaces are investigated by staff of the CDPHE Sentinel Event Notification System for Occupational Risk (SENSOR) program! This report describes the investigation of a construction-related spinal cord injury reported to the CDPHE SENSOR program on February 8, 1993, and summarizes information about a similar case in California. On February 1,1993, the construction worker sustained a spinal cord injury - which resulted in permanent paraplegia - while attempting to raise a pre-constructed wood-framed wall of a single family house. A crew of three workers was using a standard procedure that consisted of laying the wall on the ground and "walking it up" to a vertical orientation. The wall was approximately 18 feet wide and 25 feet high at the center peak. During the procedure, two workers were positioned at the outer edges of the wall and one in the center. As the workers were raising the wall, they realized it was too heavy for them to control, possibly because it had become wet from snow that had accumulated on it during the previous evening. While the crew was attempting to lower the wall back to a horizontal orientation, the weight of the wall shifted; the crew lost control of the wall, and it fell to the ground. The worker in the center could not escape the falling wall and was trapped under it, sustaining a fracture dislocation of the seventh thoracic vertebra and spinal cord injury. During the investigation of this injury, Colorado SENSOR staff determined that the building technique used in this incident is common in the construction industry and that many companies employ similar practices for raising prefabricated walls. Colorado SENSOR staff learned of a similar incident that had occurred in California and resulted in a permanently disabling spinal cord injury. In that incident, an unspecified number of workers were raising a 19x171/2-foot rain-soaked wood-framed wall with an attached chimney chase. As the workers attempted to lift the wall, the base slipped forward, causing the wall to fall back toward the workers. Although most of the workers were able to clear the area before the wall collapsed, three were pinned beneath the wall as it fell. One of the three sustained fracture dislocations of the T12 and LI vertebrae, spinal cord injury, and subsequent permanent paralysis.
Spinal-cord-disorders; Construction-industry; Construction-workers; Back-injuries; Injury-prevention; Accident-analysis; Occupational-accidents
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Journal Article
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Journal of the American Medical Association
Page last reviewed: September 2, 2020
Content source: National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health Education and Information Division