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Two workers at a manufacturing facility for double-hulled watercraft were using a 1978 Hyster forklift, with a forklift extension, to lower a jet pump onto its base inside a hull under construction. The jet pump weighed 498 pounds, well within the forklift`s capacity.

The jet pump was lowered to within two inches of its base, and both workers descended into the hull to position it. One worker was told to access the forklift controls and lower the pump the final two inches. Instead of climbing over the other worker and the pump to get out of the cramped hull, he leaned over under the forklift extension and through the carriage to pull the lever, expecting only a two-inch drop in the payload. Unfortunately, the forklift extension suddenly dropped, pinning the worker. He later died of his injuries.

Underlying Mechanical Defects

The forklift`s unusual actions were explained after a thorough inspection and re-enactment of the accident. this manufacturer experienced periods of inactivity when no work orders were being fulfilled. This forklift had been idle for four years until shortly before the accident. One roller on the carriage was out of alignment by 2 millimetres, allowing it to catch on the top of the carriage when fully extended. This caused a slackening of the lift chain in the particular situation of using a lift extension in a forward-leaning position, creating the dangerous condition. When the forklift was activated again, the extension dropped as before.

Improper Training

The workers at this plant were not fully trained in forlkift management. one rule in proper forklift use is not to leave the controls unless the forks are landed in a safe position; another rule states that when working under a load, that load must be properly secured.

The affected worker did not know that he was operating in an unsafe environment, and could not have known that the lift was in an unsafe condition. Lack of training and improper maintenance were the causative factors of his death.

More information can be found at: Worksafe BC.

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