Worker Left Dangling From Side of Washington State Capitol Building After Scaffolding Gives Way

Cleaning of the Legislative Building was suspended indefinitely yesterday after a platform similar to that used by window washers gave way, leaving one worker suspended by his life line 40 feet above the ground for about two minutes. There had been two workers in the rectangular mobile platform preparing to pressure-wash a portion of the building when the platform gave way. It was not immediately clear how the second worker reached safety.

The employee of Seattle-based Western Waterproofing Co. was pulled to safety on the fourth-floor roof by a co-worker just as Olympia Fire Department personnel arrived on the scene about 7:10 a.m. to assist.

Work on the $1.148 million project has been halted until all the scaffolding and equipment are checked, and the dozen or so employees assigned to the job go through additional safety training.

The project to perform critical exterior repairs and clean the upper two-thirds of the building began in late July and was to be completed in early November. The Capitol Dome is typically scrubbed clean every five years, but the work scheduled for 2009 was placed on hold because of the bleak state budget picture. The current contract also includes tackling leaks in the historic sandstone structure.

Washington’s workers compensation scheme prevents workers from recovering directly from their employer in most cases, however injured workers may be entitled to recover from third parties. For example, where injuries occur due to faulty safety equipment such as scaffolding, a worker injured due to the equipment’s failure likely has a claim against the manufacturer of the equipment. In addition, where an employee of a subcontractor is injured on the job, they may be entitled to recover from the general contractor depending on the circumstances.