UPDATE on city worker’s accident, Harrisburg
HARRISBURG—We’ve finally received new information on the dire situation with city worker Ray Brown, injured in a freak accident two nights ago (Tuesday, 03.20.12) in the storm zone in Harrisburg.
A witness to the accident said that it occurred in the evening (after 6 p.m., when work in the damaged area of town is supposed to cease) after Brown and a worker contracted by the city, Don Snyder,were wrapping things up. Nearby, Manatron hires were burning debris (on-site, something they’re not necessarily supposed to be doing) and were actually putting out the fire at that point; Brown and Snyder had been working a trackhoe.
The two were done with the trackhoe and, as it was described to us by the witness, Brown went to weld a pinhole back on a manual “thumb” (part of the machine that makes it “grip” or pinch, like a thumb and forefinger) and moved it to the wider opening.
“Ray put the pin in just enough to hold it,” the witness said, “struck an arc, and started welding.”
The suspicion by those on scene is that the heat caused a reaction with the pin where it sat, and it fell out, causing the thumb to come down and pin Brown’s head between the thumb and the bucket of the trackhoe. Brown was wearing a welding helmet, which didn’t provide any kind of protection.
It took Snyder a few moments to realize what had happened, as, the eyewitness said, “You don’t look at a welding arc when it’s burning,” so Snyder wasn’t facing that direction until after the arc light went out. The eyewitness said he doesn’t know how long it took Snyder to realize something was wrong, but it wasn’t long; nevertheless, it also wasn’t immediate, as sources intimated in their report last night.
It took two people to lift the thumb off Brown, Snyder being one of them. Brown was taken from the scene to a hospital (not revealed to us) with crushing injuries to his head. There was reportedly nothing else injured except his face/skull (initial reports indicated that he may have experienced torso injuries as well). Initially, his condition was reported as grave and it wasn’t certain whether he was going to make it. Yesterday morning there seemed to be some improvement. We’ve not heard as of today, as our source was uncertain.
However, the source was dismayed over a couple of things, one of them being the oppressive feeling contractors working in the storm zone have over OSHA.
“No one has seen OSHA at all,” he told us, noting that OSHA had said they were going to become an ENFORCEMENT entity as well as an oversight agency. “There’s no one out there to ‘enforce.’ This is just a threat that’s hanging over us.”
The witness said that contrary to OSHA dictates via the city, he’s seen people working at night when they know OSHA won’t be around after 8 “office” hours.
“Scaffolding is going up at night,” he said, “so people can work without being bothered by OSHA…even though we never see OSHA.”
OSHA has threatened to cite people for such infractions, as well as for working alone (which was being investigated by authorities initially in this incident with Brown, as there was some confusion as to how the accident could have happened the way it did without there being someone nearby….and it was later ascertained that the arc welding was the reason why Snyder wasn’t looking in that direction.) What else OSHA might cite for, however, remains unclear to many of those working at the sites, despite the hours spent “educating” the contractors who have to pay $250 to even be there in the first place….and, we’ve learned, each individual contractor who works on a property has to pay this, and pass it along to the customer: A concrete contractor; a builder; a plumber; an electrician; a landscaper….the list goes on and on and the numbers rack up. The above list is a cost of $1,250 over and above the original job, this passed on to the customer…with 300 homes and/or businesses impacted by the Leap Day Tornado.
All this made no impact on Brown’s situation whatsoever.
“If anything,” the witness said, “this should tell us all out there that we need to slow down. And that’s all I’m going to say about it.”
The witness was somewhat reticent about expounding further, as last night’s post here, put up after brief discussions with city sources who only told what they knew, produced a shameful display on our Facebook page today from a handful of people who apparently don’t understand the difference between something a SOURCE is cited as saying and something WE assert is the bottom line (unless you missed it, we NEVER assert something is the bottom line until we obtain paperwork stating as such….and as anyone in the county knows, even that’s not always the end in Saline). The witness did confirm today a couple of things though: tests conducted on Brown upon hospitalization were standard and revealed that he had no blood alcohol content, but were only done as a regular course of assessment (this leading to speculation on the part of those on the scene that people in positions of authority were worried Brown may have been drinking prior to the accident, something our city sources also intimated last night); and, interestingly, the trackhoe he was working on wasn’t his; it belonged to Pinoy Construction. Whether this was a contributing factor to the accident (as in, Brown wasn’t familiar with this particular piece of heavy equipment) is unknown at this time and it’s not clear whether that’s being examined or not.
The tension in the damage zone is bad enough as it is, but now, it’s increased exponentially, and our witness says this is palpable. Why the city, which rallied in the days following the storm, is enhancing this divisiveness by allowing the stress to increase with the permitting system and supposed OSHA presence (and even allowing “certain” people to use contractors who didn’t have to pay the fee; more on that to come), is unclear. It certainly can’t be for want of money to fill up the coffers of the general fund…which is where the “fees” are going….but it’s certainly causing an atmosphere of recrimination, and that’s something that the victims of the Leap Day Tornado just aren’t ready to try and handle in the midst of the chaos that defines their lives right now.
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