Roof collapse investigation could take months
It could be weeks or months before information is released about the cause of Tuesday’s roof collapse during the construction of a warehouse off Stevens Street.
Nevertheless, the accident is still fresh on the minds of the injured iron workers as they recover from their wounds.
“I’ve never seen anything like this, it was like an earthquake,” said Mark Furia, while mending an ankle injury and bruises to his back and ribs at his home in North Scituate, R.I. “I’m a little sore, I can’t even walk.”
Furia, 48, said he was one of the two workers who emergency responders suspected had suffered internal injuries from the 30-foot fall, prompting a request for a helicopter transport to an emergency room. When high winds prevented the helicopter rescue, all six workers were taken by ambulance to area hospitals.
Fortunately, Furia’s injuries were not life-threatening and he was released from Morton Hospital and Medical Center Tuesday afternoon.
Furia, a welder, said he was one of 10 workers fastening the 42 foot steel sections when the roof gave way shortly before 10 a.m.
He described the crash as a “mini 9/11.” The roof, welding equipment, safety gear, and people all fell at once, he said.
“When you get a collapse, everything just comes down,” said Furia, who has been an iron worker for 24 years.
Although he was wearing a safety harness and was connected to a wire static line, Furia said there was no time to react.
The other workers treated at Morton Hospital included Timothy Marois, 32, of Pascoa, R.I., Jason Clarke, 33, of Burriville, R.I., and Russell Morin, 42, of Woonsocket, R.I.
Clarke sustained a broken ankle, a dislocated shoulder, hip damage, and a bruised back and is recovering at home.
James Fletcher, of Waterford, N.Y., was released from Rhode Island Hospital in Providence on Thursday after being treated for injuries to his back and elbow.
Michael Weaver, of Menanes, N.Y., was treated and released from Charlton Memorial Hospital in Fall River on Tuesday.
Ajax Construction Company of Harrisville, R.I., a subcontractor on the project, declined to provide information about the incident.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration is investigating the accident and has up to six months to issue a finding. An employer can be fined up to $70,000 for a violation.
According to OSHA, employers are required to install railings, netting, or wear safety harnesses when working at heights above six feet. Although the temperature was in the 20s with gusting winds there are no rules preventing employees from working in extreme weather.
“There is no specific standard that addresses the heat and cold,” said Fred Smith, of the OSHA office in Providence. “But if the weather is a hazard it would be addressed by us through the General Duty clause.”
On Thursday, work crews were back on the job building the quarter-mile road that leads to the two warehouses at the Liberty & Union Industrial Park. Work to the framed buildings was limited to the rear of the damaged structure, while the collapsed roofing panels remained folded in on the warehouse floor.
According to witnesses, two workers were injured on a lift in addition to the four who were hurt while working on top of the structure.
“They are hardy kinds of guys to do that kind of work,” said Dan DaRosa, who owns a nearby construction company and rushed to the scene to help.