Last night, the local PBS station, KUHT/Houston, carried a program featuring
the construction of the Gateway Arch at St. Louis. The arch was constructed
in the 60's and, being pre-OSHA, the construction workers on the 600-foot
tall structure were without harness, belts, safety lines, etc. The
insurance company(ies?) of the project predicted 13 people would lose their
lives during the arch's construction. Over the two-year construction
period, no lives were lost and there were only two lost time injuries.
Still, it was pretty unnerving watching the workers moving around on the
structure without so much as a safety line. What railings on the catwalks
there were seemed to be pretty weak looking and a lot shorter in height than
they should be (way below a man's center of gravity).
At one point, as the two legs approached each other near the top of the
arch, a safety net was placed under the work area spanning the two arch
legs. One of the workers related a story about one of his co-workers who
discussed at length making the jump into the net to verify it worked.
Before he did it, though, his co-workers, on a day-off (with very few people
around on the ground), filled a burlap (or something) bag with material
approximating the weight of the worker. They pushed it over the edge at the
top of the structure and watched the bag miss the net. Needless to say, the
worker who intended to jump never did.
It was interesting (and sad) to note that in the construction of both the
Gateway Arch (1963) and the Brooklyn Bridge (1870), the lead
architect/project engineers (Saarinen and Roebling, respectively) passed
away before the completion of the construction of their respective projects.
Check your local PBS listings...another interesting engineering program
along the lines of PBS' Boulder/Hoover Dam, Brooklyn Bridge, Golden Gate
Bridge, Clark Bridge (Alton, IL) documentaries.
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