Buffalo, NY – One man was seriously injured and another died from injuries sustained in an explosion at a wastewater treatment plant in a recent accident in Canastota, NY. The two men were working as steamfitters in the wastewater treatment plant in the Central New York town. Their employer was working as a subcontractor on the project.
Richard Whitney, 58, died after sustaining third degree burns to most of his body. His co-worker, Richard “Richie” Sterling, suffered burns on his arms and face. The two men were welding new pipe into a digester tank at the plant when something ignited. Sterling was acting as a “safety” or “helper” while Whitney welded the pipe.
The injury highlights the dangers of working in the construction industry. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), fatalities in the construction industry rose for the second year in a row. In 2012, there were 577 fatalities, up from 533 in 2011.
In addition, welding work poses its own dangers. According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), welding, cutting, and brazing activities pose a risk to 500,000 workers per year in a variety of jobs. The fatal injury rate is more than four workers per thousand over a working lifetime, OSHA reported.
“This tragic accident reinforces the need for safety on construction sites. Working in construction is hazardous. In a situation such as this, the surviving worker would be eligible for Workers’ Compensation benefits to assist with medical expenses and cover any lost wages. Our firm sees cases where construction accidents cause devastating injuries,” Jeffrey Freedman, Managing Attorney, said.
Officials from the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) are investigating the accident.