Posted July 11, 2023
Real lift situation
A janitorial worker and a co-worker had been assigned to dust water pipes that were suspended from the ceiling of the first level of a shopping mall parking garage. A personnel lift had been set up beneath the drain lines adjacent to a support column, but without extending the outriggers to stabilize the lift. The janitor accessed the pipes from the elevated lift and used a brush to remove the dust.
The co-worker heard a noise and looked toward the lift. He saw the lift tipping over and the janitor attempting to grab the pipe. The lift continued tipping, and the janitor fell with it nearly 15 feet, striking his head on the pavement. The co-worker summoned emergency medical personnel, which responded quickly. The janitor was transported by helicopter to a local hospital and died 12 hours later.
Following the instructions would have necessitated lowering the lift to the ground, dismounting from the work platform, raising the outrigger leveling jacks off the pavement, and manually repositioning the lift after a section of pipe had been dusted. The outrigger jacks would then have to be used to re-level the machine before the worker could board the work platform and raise it into position to resume dusting.
The task could have been accomplished using alternative methods. The pipe could have been dusted from the ground using a long-handled dust mop or perhaps pressure washing equipment with extended handles. Even if the lift had been used, a long-handled tool or pressure washer may have decreased the number of times the lift would have had to be repositioned. This procedure would have to be performed numerous times to complete the job and may have provided an incentive to perform unsafely.
The personnel lift in this incident was supplied with outriggers equipped with leveling jacks. These are intended to provide stability to the machine when being used for lifting personnel. The manufacturer’s operating instructions specifically stated that all outriggers must be installed and the lift leveled before use. When examined after the incident, the operating instructions were missing.
The lift had been routinely used without outriggers for maintenance tasks, such as replacing light bulbs. The conditions inside the mall, where the floor was level, could have decreased the likelihood of tipping. However, using the lift on the slightly sloping parking lot pavement likely contributed to the lift’s instability.
Key to remember: Train your workers about the manufacturer’s recommended procedures and safe operation of the specific aerial lift used on the jobsite.