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Bridge workers suspended for climbing 350ft down tower in high winds

Two workers on Queensferry Crossing climbed out of hatch on top of lift then clambered down steel structure.

Queensferry Crossing River Forth bridge under construction news image uploaded November 13 2015

Two workers on the Queensferry Crossing have been suspended after climbing down from a lift which had broken down 500ft above sea level during strong winds.

The small hoist is used to transport workers to and from the top of the central tower of the bridge, which is under construction on the Firth of Forth.

Seven men were inside when it broke down at around 2pm on Thursday, approximately 350ft above the platform where they would normally get off.

STV News understands the men climbed out of a hatch on top of the lift, then clambered 350ft down the steel structure which attaches the hoist to the side of the tower.

The strength of the winds at the time had affected traffic on the neighbouring Forth Road Bridge, which was closed to double decker buses at 1.49pm.

A worker on the bridge who asked to remain anonymous told STV News: "They were absolutely terrified. They thought they were going to be killed.

"They had just started coming down for their dinner and were still nearly at the top of the tower when a wire snapped and a wheel came off the lift. The other wires got twisted.

"They thought the whole thing was going to snap and they climbed down the tower themselves. It took two hours for the other three to be rescued.

"It was really windy and they should have been told not to use the lift and come down the internal stairs inside the tower instead.”

A Transport Scotland spokesman said: "Our contractor FCBC, is currently leading an investigation into the incident.

"Staff were working in safe conditions inside the jump form at the top of Queensferry Crossing’s centre tower.

"As wind speeds picked up they elected to descend the tower via the Alimak, rather than using the safer option of the internal tower staircase.

"Safety procedures are in place to rescue employees from the Alimak in all conditions, these were immediately instigated.

"The rescue team successfully carried out the practised rescue drill taking the necessary actions to free the controlled descent mechanism, which allowed those on board to return down the tower safely. The safety team are to be commended for their work.

"The Alimak operational and safety record on this job has been exemplary and at no stage during the incident were the personnel inside the hoist in any danger.

"The Alimak hoists are fully compliant with UK LOLER (Lifting Operations and Lifting Equipment) regulations and routine checks are carried out daily and weekly.

"In addition the hoists are subject to six monthly maintenance by Alimak trained personnel."

Harry Frew, regional organiser for construction trade UCATT said: "There was a bit of panic.

"I’ve been in that kind of situation before. You’re left wondering if it’s going to hold. You’re being told to stay where you are but you’re wondering if that’s the right thing to do.

"There’s a natural reaction to these things, human nature sometimes takes over.

"But health and safety is paramount . We want to ensure that procedures on the site are safe. If there’s been a malfunction obviously that gives us great concern."

Unusually high winds during the summer delayed the installation of the bridge’s decks, with work finally getting under way in September.

The £1.4bn Crossing is due to open in December next year.

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