Section I: Vehicular Accidents
Summary No. 13 - Forklift Truck Operations
Employees were exposed to the hazard of being struck by the forks attached to a forklift truck with defective safety devices.
A forklift equipped with a trash bucket picks up trash in front of a marine terminal garage.
Activity at time of incident:
Longshoremen were emptying the contents of the trash bucket into a dumpster.
Two longshoreman are picking up trash from the parking lot in front of the marine terminal garage. To dispose of the trash, one longshoreman operates the two-ton forklift with a trash bucket suspended from one fork. The trash bucket is attached to the blade on the left side of the fork lift with a nylon strap and shackle. The right blade stays attached to the lift but is empty. The second longshoreman walks alongside the forklift, picking up the trash by hand and placing it into the bucket. The bucket is then dumped into a 6- foot high dumpster located in front of the garage. The forklift operator raises the trash bucket above the dumpster as the other longshoreman tips the trash into the dumpster. This clean-up is done once every few weeks.
After the bucket was loaded with light trash (mostly paper), the operator positioned the forklift truck near the dumpster and raised the bucket over the dumpster. At this point the forks were about eight feet above the ground. The other longshoreman was standing beneath the right blade trying to tip the trash bucket on the left blade with a shovel. The forklift operator jostled the bucket up and down to help dump the trash bucket while the longshoreman pushed with the shovel. The right blade became dislodged from the carriage of the forklift and struck the longshoreman in the head and killed him.
The fork truck blade became disengaged from the carriage and fell off when the bucket was jostled up and down. Additionally, the forklift truck had two major deficiencies that may have contributed to the incident. The end stops, which prevent the blades from sliding off the end of the carriage, were broken off and the spring-loaded latch, which keeps the blade secured between the notches of the carriage, was missing. An inspection of forklifts in the shop revealed that all of the forklifts had broken end stops.
Further, the forklift was not equipped with a vertical load backrest extension, as required by 29 CFR 1917.43(e)(2), intended to prevent the load from hitting the mast when the mast is positioned at maximum backward tilt.
There were numerous other safety hazards at this facility, including improper machine guarding, failure to install guardrails, and electrical hazards. Additionally, poor housekeeping was noted (debris was piled up in one area of the garage) and lack of appropriate first aid such as a missing eye wash station.
Applicable Standards and Control Measures
- 29 CFR 1917.43(c)(5): Powered industrial trucks - Maintenance. "Powered industrial trucks shall be maintained in safe working order. Safety devices shall not be removed or made inoperative . . . Trucks with . . . safety defect(s) shall not be operated."
This hazard might have been prevented if the forklift had been properly maintained and inspected prior to its use and taken out of service until repairs were completed. Specifically, the end stops and spring loaded latches should have been repaired to prevent the forks from becoming dislodged. The blade stops were removed from a fork lift allowing the fork lift blade to be accidentally disengaged.
Other Relevant Standards and/or Control Measures
A different method for tipping the trash bucket should be developed. In addition to the hazard presented by the blades, the trash bucket itself could have become dislodged. For example, a long rod with a hook for tipping the bucket from a distance could be used or alternatively, a different method for transferring the trash into the dumpster that did not involve using the forklift and the trash bucket.
Vehicle Accidents Summary No. 13: The fork truck blade of the forklift became disengaged from the carriage and fell off when the trash bucket was jostled up and down striking the victim in the head.