On Thursday, January 9, rescue workers were called to a construction site at One West Palm, a two-tower project on the north side of downtown West Palm Beach, after a wall collapsed, trapping a worker.
The wall that collapsed on Thursday afternoon was described as a “rebar wall,” in which metal bars form a skeleton and concrete is poured later. The project’s developer, Jeff Greene, said that high winds knocked over a form being used to pour concrete. The form then knocked down the rebar wall onto the worker.
The winds also made rescuing the worker difficult. Assistant Fire Chief Brent Bloomfield said the man was pulled from under the wall, placed in a rescue basket, and lowered by crane to the ground on the northwest side of the building. Crane operators lowered the basket, with a fire rescue worker hanging on the side, fighting the winds all the way.
“It’s extremely dangerous,” Battalion Chief Danny Colazzo said of the rescue. “The rest is what we do every day.”
The injured worker was then taken by ambulance to a local hospital.
Unfortunately, construction accidents are common, and often result in chronic pain or even permanent disability. Throughout the US, 20 percent of workplace fatalities involve construction. More than half a million Florida residents are employed in the construction industry. In the state of Florida, more than 300 people die in work-related accidents annually, with the construction industry leading in fatalities.
“Because of all the construction we’ve had in the last decade, we’ve had multiple calls like this,” Bloomfield said. “Sometimes it’s a window washer or somebody working on a construction site like this.”
Both falls from high places like ladders or scaffolding, and being hit by falling objects—such as the rebar wall in this case—are leading causes of construction site injuries. Recovery can be slow and painful, and may involve months of lost income when the injured person is unable to work. Workers’ compensation may not always be adequate to cover all the bills associated with medical treatment, as well as regular costs of living. Some injuries may leave a worker permanently disabled and no longer able to work.