Thomas J. Cocchiola, PE, CSP, Mechanical Engineer and Certified Safety Specialist ::::
Accident: A serious accident occurred the first time a truck driver was making a delivery to a relatively large auto parts store. The driver parked his truck trailer and unloaded pallets with the help of the store manager. The two men placed pallets onto an elevated platform that was approximately 9-feet above the floor of the shipping receiving area. The manager then operated a hydraulically powered lift to lower pallets to the floor. The driver continued unloading pallets from the trailer after the manager lowered the lift. Unfortunately, the driver accidentally fell from the unprotected edge of the elevated platform and was disabled as a result of the fall.
Analysis: The hydraulic lift was an integral part of a vertical reciprocating conveyor (VRC) that was originally equipped with an interlocked safety gate along the exposed edge of the elevated platform. As originally designed and installed, the interlocked safety gate provided effective fall protection for workers consistent with applicable safety codes and standards. The original design of the VRC required the interlocked safety gate to be closed and locked before the lift could be lowered.
However, the VRC was modified after it was installed. The electrical switches for the interlocked safety gate were intentionally disconnected and bypassed and the store operated the modified VRC without the interlocked safety gate in violation of applicable safety codes and standards.
As a result, workers were routinely exposed to severe fall hazards. Safety codes and standards also required the store to inspect and maintain the VRC in safe operating condition. The store ignored applicable requirements and operated the modified VRC without the safety gate.
Results: The case was successfully resolved before trial.
Thomas J. Cocchiola, PE, CSP, is a Mechanical Engineer and Certified Safety Specialist with DJS Associates and can be reached via email at experts@forensicDJS.com or via phone at 215-659-2010.