The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has begun an investigation into a workplace accident that occurred across the border from Pennsylvania. Reports indicate that a roofer is in critical condition after he fell through the roof on which he was working and landed in a large vat of nitric acid.

Although the acid was diluted to some degree, the man still suffered burns on his skin. Firefighters responded quickly to the accident and helped rinse the worker off, mitigating further damage. But the height of the fall–estimated at 40 feet–also inflicted injuries. Doctors diagnosed the man with a punctured lung and a broken rib. His co-workers are optimistic about his recovery.

When the roof gave way, four of the man’s fellow workers rushed to his aid and helped pull him out of the acid. The fire department lauded this as a courageous act, in which some of the rescuers experienced burns and skin irritation.

The workers were replacing a roof at a factory that manufactures metal tubes. A new roof was needed because gaseous acid had caused deterioration of the old metal roof. It appears that the contractor may not have had the required permit to begin work. City authorities said that a fine could be issued against the contractor if it did in fact lack a building permit.

Roofing is one of the most dangerous occupations in the country. Safety measures help prevent some injuries, but unfortunately accidents still occur. Injured workers can turn to workers’ compensation, however, which can help with lost wages and medical treatment.

Source: The Record, “Update: Co-workers rescue man from vat of acid,” Marlene Naanes, Richard Cowen and Hannan Adely, May 7, 2012.