QUEENSBURY - A section of the ceiling in Warren County's new Human Services building collapsed Friday - injuring a county employee, and prompting county officials to close the building to the public for most of the day while ceilings throughout the structure were inspected.
At about 10 a.m., a female employee was walking through an otherwise empty public lobby of the county Office of the Aging on the first floor when a section of the ceiling collapsed, bringing down ductwork, a fan, and a light fixture as well as ceiling tiles. The area that collapsed was about 12 feet by 20 feet. The tiles weigh about three pounds each; the electrical fixtures and fan are far heavier.
The employee, who had a minor injury to her arm and was hit on the head, was transported to Glens Falls Hospital for treatment, county Administrator Paul Dusek said. Monday, she was off work, shaken from the incident, he said.
Soon after the ceiling fell Friday, the public was barred from the building while officials scrambled to determine whether the collapse was an isolated incident or if the ceilings throughout the building were deficient and county employees should be evacuated. The responding task force of about a dozen people included county engineers, public works employees and private contractors.
The collapse caused wiring to rip out of the ceiling, shutting down lighting in the building's main lobby - the reception area for both the county Social Services department and county Office of the Aging.
At about 1 p.m. Friday, Dusek said the problem seemed to be isolated, and the building was reopened to the public at about 3 p.m. The ceiling infrastructure was restored over the weekend.
Dusek and a project manager who oversaw construction of the building last year said that three pins anchoring wire that suspends the ceiling had sheared off. The project manager, who declined to reveal his name, said that the serrated pins, as standard in commercial construction projects, are shot by force into the concrete decking of the floor above to anchor the wire that suspends the ceiling and fixtures. He said that three of these pins had sheared off, causing the ceiling to collapse, which caused electricity to shut down on the building's first floor.
Dusek, who headed the task force, said Monday that dozens of random anchor pins throughout the building were tested to make sure they were strong, and they tested so, except for one additional faulty pin, which was replaced, in the building's main lobby.
"We will continue to monitor the ceiling and routinely conduct a survey of it weekly," he said.
Several county workers in the building Friday said they were nervous over the sudden collapse, and that it was very fortunate that no elderly people were in the lobby at the time of the incident.
The Bovis representative said the anchor pins were likely defective or the recent Canadian earthquake, which had shaken the building, might have weakened the failing pins.
The construction of the building, which cost more than $16 million, was completed in November.