The Marion County Sheriff has stated that a search for a Marion County construction worker has gone from a “rescue to a recovery.” The accident occurred around 12:30pm Monday morning when the man, working on the Haletown Bridge off Highway 41, tumbled into the Tennessee River after attempting to hop between beams.
It was a four foot drop into the water below. The worker was wearing a nearly 100lb tool belt at the time. He attempted to resurface, but the weight of his belt quickly dragged him back underwater.
Like the rest of the co-worker’s he was wearing a life jacket while working on the bridge. The jacket, however, reportedly slipped off when he hit the water.
Teams from Marion, Hamilton, and Franklin counties came to help with the recovery using sonar to search for the man until 2:00am Tuesday morning. Unfortunately, the currents of the Tennessee River were very swift and made the recovery difficult. But the Tennessee Valley Authority plans to reduce the current to make the recovery easier.
Rescue efforts began again later in the day with a dive team searching the area with the aid of Hamilton County and Franklin County and the New Hope Volunteer Fire Department.
Fatal Falls in Tennessee Workplaces
According to the US Department of Labor 8% of all workplace deaths result from falls. Still fatal falls have actually decreased in the work place by 42% since 2007, largely in part to new safety standards applied.
OSHA states that any person who is working above four feet need to be protected from falls — it’s five feet in maritime and six feet in construction, however.
Many bridge projects have professional grade harnesses or safety nets to catch worker’s who do fall. But, some larger projects that encompass the entire length of the bridge make safety precautions much harder to put into place.
Horizontal lifelines are often strung along the length of the bridge for temporary use, if a bridge is under construction or being repaired. Permanent lifelines may be installed underneath the bridge for routine maintenance and inspections.
No word if other safety precautions beyond the life jackets were in place at the time of the Marion County accident.