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Posted: September 13, 2013 5:24 p.m.

Worker airlifted after Baxter site fall

By Brian Fazio/

Some construction was still taking place Thursday afternoon at the Baxter International worksite.

A construction worker fell 30-40 feet Thursday morning while working at the Baxter International construction site on the Newton/Walton county line and was airlifted to Gwinnett Medical Center, according to emergency officials and a construction company spokesman.

An employee of Greensboro, N.C.-based Steel Performance, a subcontractor, fell when the retractable steel cable in his safety harness broke, according to Chris McFadden, spokesman for Turner Construction Co., one of two main general contractors on the Baxter worksite. He said the man was being treated for a broken wrist.

Atlanta’s division of the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is planning to send an inspector to the scene Friday morning, according to an area OSHA representative and McFadden. Construction has been halted on site, and Turner will conduct its own investigation of the incident, McFadden said.

The worker fell around 30-40 feet, county emergency officials said.

“Based on the mechanism of the fall (essentially 6 + times the height of the average man) and falling/tumbling onto a hard construction site surface, the risk to life is great," Newton Emergency Medical Services Director Kevin Johnson said in an email“Based on the impact of his fall, the pain and visible injuries we saw, air transport was a quicker way to a trauma center for someone in his condition.”

The call came into emergency officials around 9:50 a.m., according to Newton County Fire Deputy Chief Brad Stapp.

Once on site, an OSHA inspector will walk the worksite to identify hazards, take photos, interview construction employees and notify the company of issues, according to an OSHA representative.

OSHA expects all workplace hazards to be remedied as soon as possible, the representative said, but if any serious violations are found, OSHA can issue citations, including fines up to $7,000.

Turner is handling construction on the north side of Baxter’s 162-acre site, said a Baxter spokesperson. Texas-based Fluor is handling construction on the south side. There was still some construction going on at the Baxter site mid-Thursday afternoon.

"The safety of our workforce is always a top priority as demonstrated by our safety performance on the project prior to this incident," McFadden said in an email. "Safety is a part of our culture, and we take it very seriously. Prior to today we have not had a lost-time incident on the project. This totals over 300,000 work hours.

Johnson said local emergency officials had worked with construction officials at the Baxter site to be prepared for an incident like Thursday's fall.

“Personnel from the Baxter site construction group were helpful in activating rescue personnel and assisting us at the scene with the patient. Public safety personnel (EMS and NCFD) have been reviewing with Baxter personnel on how to respond to just these types of incidents. Those plans were in place and will continue to be reviewed for success as the construction site progresses," Johnson said.

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