Many times lately, I hear that the recent increase in construction is causing a shortage of skilled workers resulting in an increased rate of workforce injuries and accidents. I don’t know the validity of the claim, but more than the typical number of prefabricated metal building structural failures have come to my attention within just the last few months. Two of these incidents involve complete collapse of structures very much identical to my own typical project. I am acutely obsessed with these circumstances.
Far from morbid curiosity, I have always made it a practice to follow construction accident occurrences and look for lessons that may apply to my own procedures. In particular, I consider prefabricated metal building erection related failures a valuable opportunity to evaluate if I may be exposing my crews to unanticipated risks. Complacency is a deadly state when it comes to any inherently risky process. Experience can work against you. When you have gotten away with something time after time, you may be led to believe a less than certain method is perfectly safe. It may well be, until it isn’t.
Two such incidents I am currently following are the SL Aviation Hangar collapse at Morristown Municipal Airport in New Jersey and the Argyle High School practice facility collapse in Texas. Both of these projects represent, precisely, the typical CMBSC project. We complete dozens of very similar projects every year. My take away at this juncture:
- Metal building erection is a risky endeavor not to be entered into without the appropriate training, experience and oversight.
- There is no amount of bracing and redundancy that is unwarranted. If there is a next level of preparedness, you should be there already.
- Near misses and incident reviews are learning opportunities. Don’t waste them.
Note: Several workers were injured in the course of the incidents discussed below. At the Argyle collapse, Julio Ledesman (36) was deceased as a result of his injuries. Mr. Ledesman was a father of 3 young girls, you may contribute help to the family at this link.