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Hazard

Employees were exposed to the hazard of being struck by a forklift truck operating in a location not restricted to vehicular traffic.

Process

A forklift truck transfers steel coils from a dock to a marine terminal warehouse.

Activity at time of incident:

A warehouse employee walked among stacks of steel coils when he stepped into the path of a forklift truck as it backed up.

Incident Description

Setting:

Longshoremen are transferring steel coils from a dock to a marine terminal warehouse, using a forklift truck and a bridge crane to stack the coils in rows in the warehouse. The forklift operator would carry as many as two of the coils (weighing about 19,000 pounds each and measuring about 42.5 inches in diameter) at one time from the barge to the warehouse. The warehouse is 60 feet wide and 500 feet long. In the warehouse there is one well-defined main aisle of fixed length and width (about 18.5 feet wide), but the other aisles vary in width and length, depending on the number of coils in storage at any given time. The forklift truck, which is about 30 feet long and 9 feet wide, enters the warehouse through a roll-up door (about 18.5 feet wide), places the coils in a clear area of the warehouse, backs up across the main aisle into another clear area, and exits through the same door. The forklift operator usually carries two coils at a time on the lift truck. The warehouse employee operates an overhead (bridge) crane inside the warehouse to stack the coils after they are delivered by the forklift truck. No aisles within the warehouse are marked or designated.

Incident:

Just before the incident, a steel coil apparently slipped off the crane hook used to transport the coils throughout the warehouse, and the warehouse employee had left the bridge crane pendant control station to investigate the situation. It appears that the coil on the hook struck another stacked coil and fell from its hook. The employee walked among the stacks into an area used by the forklift truck operator to turn around, stepping into the path of the forklift truck as it backed up. The operator lost sight of the warehouse employee as he was turning around. The vehicle struck and killed the employee.

Relevant Factors:

The warehouse lacked designated safe aisle ways and operating areas for the forklift truck.

There was no designated drop off point for the coils in the warehouse. Moreover, a forklift truck safety manual kept at the work site specified the marking of forklift truck paths.

The forklift truck operator typically did not sound the horn in the warehouse unless he saw unauthorized personnel in the vicinity. However, the reverse signal alarm was operable (and assumed to be in operation at the time of the incident).

Other safety hazards were identified during the investigation. For example, the bridge crane and material handling gear in the warehouse were not properly inspected prior to being placed in service. The brake pedal on the forklift truck did not have a non-slip surface and the forklift truck was not marked with its rated capacity visible to the operator. Hard hats were not required for employees working in the warehouse, although coils were moved at various heights throughout the building. Additionally, emergency exits were not clearly marked, and in some cases the view was obstructed by the stacked steel coils.

Applicable Standards and Control Measures
  • 29 CFR 1917.44(f): General rules applicable to vehicles. "Vehicular routes, traffic rules, and parking areas shall be established, identified, and used.."

This hazard could have been prevented by designating and clearly marking travel aisles for the forklift truck in the warehouse and by ensuring that other employees remained outside of these designated vehicular travel aisles, or by posting authorized operating area signs.

Other Relevant Standards and/or Control Measures

Drivers should be instructed not to travel in any direction with an obstructed view unless they have a spotter to guide them through the blind areas.

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