Recommendation #1: Employers should implement 29 CFR 1910.178 (m)(12)(i), which requires the use of a safety platform firmly secured to the lifting carriage and/or forks when lifting personnel with a powered industrial truck (e.g., forklift).
Discussion: In this incident, a steel-framed cage-type safety platform used as a work surface was elevated, unsecured, on the forks of the forklift. 29 CFR 1910.178 (m)(12)(i) requires that whenever a truck is equipped with vertical only, or vertical and horizontal controls elevatable with the lifting carriage or forks for lifting personnel, the use of a safety platform firmly secured to the lifting carriage and/or forks shall be used as an additional precaution for the protection of the personnel being elevated. If the safety platform had been firmly secured, the victim and safety platform would not have toppled from the forks of the forklift and the incident may have been prevented. Note: the employer has secured the safety platform to a set of forks by welding the bottom of the steel-frame safety platform to the forks apparatus. Also, to provide for additional safety while working from an elevated safety platform, workers should use a safety belt and lanyard secured to a point on the forklift or cage, in the event the worker should fall out of the platform.
Recommendation #2: Employers should ensure that personnel assigned to operate forklifts are thoroughly trained.
Discussion: The victim and forklift operator discussed changing light bulbs then proceeded to the area where the forklift was parked. Without first checking that the safety platform was secured to the forks of the forklift, the operator and the victim moved the forklift to the recycling center entrance-way and commenced work. Employers should ensure that forklift operators are not only thoroughly trained, but that they understand the hazards associated with all phases of using a forklift (e.g., the hazards of elevating personnel in a safety platform and the prevention or elimination of those hazards).
Recommendation #3: Employers should ensure that workers continually adhere to the safe work procedures that have been established by the employer.
Discussion: Employers should continually stress the importance of adherence to established safe work procedures. In this instance, written safety rules regarding the securing of the steel-framed cage-type safety platform to the forklift were in effect when personnel were to be elevated. During employee interviews with the NCOSHA compliance officer, it was learned that the forklift operators were aware of the rule and the rules had been communicated to them. For rules to be effective, they should be reinforced on a regular basis and compliance with the rules should be enforced.
Recommendation #4: Employers should routinely conduct scheduled and unscheduled worksite safety inspections.
Discussion: Employers should be aware of any potential hazards or unsafe work conditions or practices in the workplace and should take an active role to eliminate them. Scheduled and unscheduled safety inspections should be conducted by a competent person (One who is capable of identifying existing and predictable hazards in the surroundings or working conditions which are unsanitary, hazardous, or dangerous to employees, and who has the authority to take prompt corrective measures to eliminate them.) to ensure that the workplace is free of hazardous conditions. Even though these inspections do not guarantee the prevention of occupational injury, they may identify hazardous conditions and activities that should be rectified. Further, they demonstrate the employer's commitment to the enforcement of the safety program and to the prevention of occupational injury.