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Making good decisions with equipment


If one of your New Year resolutions is to practice safe behaviors while working, congratulations. Making a commitment to work safely benefits everyone; you and your family, your coworkers and the company you work for. You know your job and the safe practices that go with it and ultimately your decisions set the path for success or failure.

In the following two examples decisions were made that led down the wrong path. Which direction would you go?

(1) Three electrical workers, one licensed electrician and two apprentices, were rewiring a residential basement. They made a temporary connection to draw power from an outside power pole.

The electrician went to disconnect the temporary service outside the house and instructed his co-workers to continue with their inside work. He then went to his vehicle for tools. While working alone, he climbed up an aluminum ladder under conditions of heavy rain. Standing on wet, rubber-backed pieces of carpet, he then cut a wire leading to the house from the pole. He was wearing street shoes, no gloves and his pliers were not insulated. He was not using any type of fall arrest equipment.
After cutting the wire, he received an electrical shock. When his apprentices noticed a loss of power, they came up from the basement immediately and heard his cries.

Fearful of touching the aluminum ladder, they unsuccessfully attempted to dislodge him from contact with the wires by kicking the ladder. They watched him let go of the wire and fall from the ladder to an asphalt walkway 20 feet below. He died from severe head and chest injuries.

The safety violations here were numerous, particularly with respect to the use of aluminum ladders around electricity, fall arrest devices, the buddy system, the use of proper gloves and safety footwear and other electrical safety measures.

Think about the choices made by this crew and how they could have changed the outcome by actually doing what they have been trained to. Working around electricity requires a heighten awareness and attention to the job.

(2) The 45-year-old worker died in a fall after the articulating boom of the aerial lift truck he was operating collapsed. The victim was working at a height of about 35 feet changing light bulbs on a state highway when the incident occurred.

The investigation found a chain connecting the upper and lower boom sections broke and the upper section fell, striking the truck bed and ejecting the man from the bucket. He died from severe head trauma.

 A crew member told inspectors that the victim had talked earlier in the day about the boom making "a funny noise." No records documenting an ongoing maintenance program for the articulating boom could be found. In this case, the manufacturer recommended that roller chains be lubricated every 30 days, noting that failure to do so could result in chain failure.

It is recommended that workers do not operate aerial lifts that are making unusual noises, vibrating or otherwise not operating properly. Equipment operators should also follow:
          • Manufacturers' recommendations for maintenance and lubrication of aerial lift operating mechanisms must be followed. Qualified repair personnel must conduct regular maintenance and inspections of aerial lifts.
          • Accurate boom maintenance and repair records must be kept.

Workers operating aerial lift trucks need to pay attention to unusual noises, uncharacteristic vibrations, or abnormal operation when controls are activated. Whatever equipment you use for the job make sure it is the right tool for the job. From hand and power tools to mechanical equipment, inspect it. Be sure it will do the job.

The details of preparing for the job are as important as the details of doing the job. 


  • Abby 5 years ago

    I don't know if it's human nature or how fast-paced our lives have become, but I'm always tempted to take short cuts. I've learned in my old age that I have to take the time to take a few extra steps to keep from damaging myself or something I'm working on. Great article!

  • JD 5 years ago

    Very true, the temptation is always there for short cuts. If folks remember the carpenter's motto of "Measure twice, cut once" that encourages you to take the time you need. It saves on wood and busted knuckles.

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