Situations such as the collapse of a concrete silo's roof pose a tough task for responding rescue teams and firefighters. Christie Elias of C.L. Elias Construction gives her analysis.
Construction experts say what happened Friday at a Medley cement plant is very rare in the concrete business.
But when something like the collapse of a concrete silo’s roof does happen, it is tough duty for a company's rescue teams and firefighters. Such silos are not easy to get into, and officials have to make sure that they aren’t putting rescue workers in danger as well.
It wasn’t until six hours after the accident at Titan America’s Pennsuco Plant that two firemen in a high-rise bucket were lowered down into the silo to search for the worker who fell. The weather delayed the rescue effort, and plant officials and firefighters needed to come up with a plan that would not endanger the team selected to go down into the silo.
“Obviously you only want to send someone in there if it’s a safe environment,” said Christie Elias of C.L. Elias Construction.
Authorities said later Friday afternoon that the worker was considered dead.
Elias, a general contractor, said the Titan America plant produces much of the concrete for South Florida. The company's website says the Medley facility has been modernized and updated.
Elias says few, if any, workers would ever find themselves doing a task inside the silo.
“I don't believe that there’s people inside because it is actually very dangerous,” Elias said. “The powdered material, as you know, as it gets piled — these types of containers can be over 200 feet high, 90 feet wide – and the materials just piled, piled, piled and the weight is so heavy down at the bottom that I know there’s not people that are down deep.”
The company's emergency procedures manual, obtained by NBC 6 South Florida, says the only acceptable goal is zero incidents and that all incidents are preventable.
It also directs that rescue capability will be available for each entry, and that rescue personnel and protective equipment needed for rescue and extraction should be in place before a worker enters a silo.
"Officials at Titan America deeply regret the incident and emphasize that employee safety is their primary concern," the company said in a statement Friday. "Reasons for the structural collapse are unknown at this point but the company plans to conduct an exhaustive follow-up investigation."
In 2008 there was a fire at the plant which firefighters took hours to extinguish.
Court records indicate the company has not faced any significant legal action for injuries at the plant in state or federal court.