In October 2013, we published a blog about a fatal accident involving an aerial lift in Butte Montana. A 46-year-old man was thrown from the bucket of a lift vehicle when it fell over on its side. In February 2014, OSHA cited the company for failing to report the fatality within the statutory eight hours. They were fined $2,000 and the case was closed.
More citations were promised by Jeff Funke, area director for OSHA. Questions were raised about whether the operators of the aerial lift were properly trained and whether the two men in the bucket were wearing safety harnesses when the rig tipped over. When the first, and apparently, only citation was issued, Funke admitted that there were “extenuating circumstances” over which the employer “did not have control of at that time.”
It is very easy to read this news over a cup of coffee or while sitting in the porcelain library and feel a sense of righteous indignation. If anything positive is going to come out of this, maybe it can serve as a reminder that aerial lift safety is everybody’s job. While it is the employer’s responsibility to make sure all lift workers are properly trained for the task at hand and on the equipment at hand, at the very least you can educate yourself about the risks and hazards associated with aerial lifts.
We said this before but it bears repeating, one quick way of reminding yourself how to operate an aerial lift safely is to OSHA’s Quick Card about aerial lift safety. Ask your employer to post copies in places where lift operators have time to stand around, like the water cooler, the rest rooms, etc. Stick a laminated copy in the lift buckets. Stick copies on any flat surface.
Finally, if anybody tells you to get in a bucket without a safety harness, tell them to stuff it.