Safety on the jobsite: Construction work can be a hazardous vocation in Incline Village |

Safety on the jobsite: Construction work can be a hazardous vocation in Incline Village

Justin Broglio
Emma Garrard / North Lake Tahoe Bonanza / North Lake Tahoe Fire Protection District paramedics load roofer Arturo Quintero into a Care Flight helicopter outside the new fire station Wednesday afternoon on Tanager Street in Incline Village. The foreman fell 35 feet from the roof of the building.

INCLINE VILLAGE – In less than three weeks there have been two serious construction-site accidents at North Shore.

Both injured workers where still in the care of Washoe Medical Center in Reno as of Saturday.

“Construction is a dangerous business,” said local contractor Paul Zahler, owner of Zahler Enterprises Inc. “You pray that accidents don’t happen, but sometimes they do and it’s extremely upsetting when they are serious.”

Jim Costalupes, owner of Costalupes Construction in Incline, said it’s very rare to have two serious construction accidents occur in Incline in one year, much less one month.

That said, he noted anything can happen at any time.

“You have to be aware of your surroundings at all times when you’re working in this business,” said Costalupes, who holds weekly safety meetings with his crew. “Accidents are a fact of life in this business. We work in life-and-death situations every time we pick up a Skillsaw or lift a beam. If you don’t take the time to review safety concerns, workers often get complacent and that’s when someone gets hurt.”

In 2004, there were 1,224 fatal occupational injuries in construction and 401,000 non-fatal injuries and illnesses in the United States, according to data from OSHA’s Injuries, Illnesses and Fatalities survey.

An accident last Dec. 29 at 1349 Valais Way in Tyrolian Village involved a rockslide, caused by heavy rains, that buried a worker. Within 45 minutes the man was unearthed by local rescue crews and the incident is currently being investigated by Nevada OSHA.

Zahler said any construction project involving a steep, excavated hillside and abnormal amounts of precipitation presents a danger.

“Working in the winter increases the chances for an accident almost 10-fold,” he said. “You especially have to be extra cautious when working in wet and icy conditions.”

The other major accident occurred Wednesday at 871 Tanager St. – the site of the new fire station.

A roofing foreman fell 35 feet from the building’s apex. The man, who was inspecting the roof one last time before calling it a day, was not wearing his harness, according to workers who witnessed the accident.

Donald Freeze, owner of Eagle Roofing in Incline, said the biggest concern in his business is fall prevention.

He said all the members of his crew own their own harnesses and ropes, and OSHA will not allow them to work without them.

“If I see a guy on the roof without a harness, I’ll send him home,” said Freeze, who, like Costalupes, holds weekly safety meetings with his crew.

Freeze, who has been in the roofing business for 24 years, said if he allowed his roofers to work without harnesses, he could face fines of more than $5,000 from OSHA.

“We’re even required to have safety gear on flat roofs,” he said. “Anytime we are working on a job higher than six feet off the ground, we have our safety gear on.”

Like Zahler and Costalupes, Freeze said winter is the time to ratchet up safety standards. “Wednesday’s accident just reinforces how important safety is,” Freeze said. “When you’re working on a roof during the winter, things can ice up really fast and you have to be extremely careful in everything that you do.”

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