A welding accident killed one contractor and injured two Metro employees in a subway tunnel in Washington D.C., reported The Washington Post (10.6.13). An explosion and fire broke out in a Red Line Metro tunnel between Union Station and the Judiciary Square stop.
The accident caused flames to erupt, a “loud noise” and a 40-foot-long piece of rail to fall. This long and heavy piece of iron rail is what killed contractor Harold Ingram.
At the time of the workplace accident, major rebuilding work in the subway tunnel was going on. According to The Washington Post, Metro officials initially thought that welding equipment ignited leaking hydraulic fluid from an underground vehicle, causing the explosion and fire. However, it is not yet determined what caused the accident.
The fire was extinguished by hand-held extinguishers.
Welding and workplace accidents
Welding is a hazardous activity and one of the most common causes of construction accidents that occur on construction sites. According to Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) statistics, more than four deaths per thousand workers (approximately 1 in 250 workers) will suffer fatal injuries from welding over a working lifetime.
Welding is required for installing steel beams and building the framework of large construction projects. Health hazards linked to welding include chemical agents and physical agents. Inhalation and/ or exposure to chemical agents like zinc, cadmium, beryllium, mercury, lead, fluorides, and ozone can cause a number of injuries. Kidney damage, emphysema, bone damage, and fluid in the lungs (pulmonary edema) are all injures seen in welding accidents involving chemical agents. These injuries may be severe and disabling, and, sometimes, fatal.
Physical agents like ultraviolet radiation, infrared radiation and intense visible light from welding can cause eye injuries and burns.
Hazards that can cause workplace accident injuries and worker death
Employers are required to provide a safe workplace free from serious recognized hazards. This means it is the employer’s responsibility to assess workplace hazards and address them appropriately, making sure they conform to applicable OSHA standards. When it comes to welding, employers must determine what hazards there are and make sure workers have and use safe tools and equipment. Employees must be trained on the hazards they are exposed to and on proper precautions.
Workers who have been injured in a welding accident may have a case against their employer. An experienced construction accident lawyer can advise workers of their rights.