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The Guardian Fall Team Blog

The Sanford Heart Hospital has been under construction for the past year in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. Henry Carlson is the contractor. When Carlson contacted Moen Steel Construction out of Omaha to do the steel work, they sent 31-year-old Jason Bauer. Jason had the rare luck to have a job he loved. Along with motorcycles and his family, working with steel was one of his favorite things. He’d even built his own motorcycle using the skills he’d learned as a journeyman ironworker.

On August 23, 2010, Jason was on the Sanford Heart Hospital site when one of the things everyone in this industry fears happened. Jason was wearing all the required fall protection. He had tied off to a steel beam while working on a concrete wall on one of the lower levels of the hospital. Then some of the steel beams in the structure, including the one Jason had tied off on, collapsed. The fall protection that was supposed to keep him safe pulled him off of the concrete wall. He was taken away by ambulance with life threatening injuries.

The incident is still under investigation by OSHA, so not all of the details of the case are currently available. It could very well be that this was a freak accident that was unavoidable. By all accounts Jason did everything you should do to stay safe. Still, this serves as a sobering reminder. What you’re tied to is as important as what you’re tied with. The best fall protection in the world will only work if you’ve tied it to something secure. It’s easy to take for granted the structural integrity of your surroundings, but often just a quick inspection can confirm your assumptions and just maybe save your life.

Questions to ask yourself when you tie off:

  • Is my anchor point secure?
  • Can the structure support the weight tied off to it?
  • Has the structure changed since I last worked at this site?