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Scaffolding collapses on Hearst Tower

Just yesterday, two workers were rescued from the top of the Hearst Tower after the scaffolding they were working on collapsed. In a terrifying scene, rescue workers worked quickly to save the two men trapped 44 stories above the ground. Thankfully, both men – Stephen Schmidt and Victor Carballo – escaped from the ordeal uninjured.

Schmidt and Carballo were performing routine maintenance near the top of the Hearst Tower, located on West 57th Street near Eighth Avenue in Manhattan when the scaffolding supporting them suddenly collapsed. Unable to move, the men dangled roughly 450 feet above the ground with nothing supporting them but their safety lines. In order to rescue the men, emergency personnel first stabilized the scaffolding the best they could and then cut through a window to pull Schmidt and Carballo to safety.

The New York City Department of Buildings and the state Department of Labor are currently investigating the cause of the accident.

In this case, the unique architecture of the Hearst Tower may have played some sort of role. The company Tractel, in fact, was asked to design a custom scaffolding system that would allow maintenance workers to negotiate the difficult terrain at the building’s corners.

According to one of the workers at the Hearst Tower who was interviewed for a recent story in the New Yorker, the safety check before using the scaffold takes approximately one hour. Unfortunately, these sorts of failures are often to blame for serious workplace injuries, even when workers follow all necessary safety precautions.

Source: New York Daily News, “Window washers dangling outside 46th floor of legendary Hearst building,” June 12, 2013

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