Not-So-Common Sense

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Marlin Buckley, Master Plumber/Electrician ::::

Case Synopsis: A mechanical contractor was hired to replace a large cooling tower atop a building as part of a renovation project at a Philadelphia university.  The university hired a consulting engineering firm to produce plans and specifications which detailed the installation.  In turn, the mechanical contractor provided submittals indicating the equipment and other materials which were to be installed.  The exact brand and model of the equipment, which the engineer had specified, was submitted as the proposed installation.  The engineer approved the submittal, the contractor procured the equipment and materials, and the installation was completed and commissioned.

Shortly after the equipment and systems became operational, a maintenance person from the university climbed to the top of the cooling tower to clean a strainer which had clogged with debris from the piping.  The cooling tower had been provided with the manufacturer’s ladder, the bottom rung of which was some 5 feet above the roof surface.  This is common to such installations, and is often referred to as a limited access ladder.  The intent is for the user to employ a step ladder to safely access the bottom rung.

No step ladder was available on the roof and, rather than make the effort to drag a ladder up from the maintenance shop in the basement, the maintenance person decided to climb up the supporting steel dunnage to reach the bottom rung of the cooling tower ladder.  Upon descent, the maintenance person’s foot slipped on the steel dunnage, and the employee tumbled some 4 feet to the roof surface, sustaining injuries. 

Expert Analysis:  Upon examination of the case files, as well as a visit to the site, it was determined that the mechanical contractor had, in fact, installed the cooling tower in accordance with the plans, specifications, and according to the terms and conditions of its contract.  The accident was a direct result of the maintenance person’s decision to use the supporting steel dunnage to reach the bottom rung instead of utilizing an appropriate step ladder.

Result: Case Settled.

 

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