Thomas J. Cocchiola, PE, CSP, Mechanical Engineer / Safety Expert ::::
Case Synopsis: An accident occurred while workers were repairing a truck equipped with a roll-off hoist and a special purpose manure tank/spreader body. The hydraulically powered roll-off hoist mounted to the truck chassis can be raised and lowered while picking up or dropping off individual manure tank/spreader bodies.
After parking the truck in the repair shop, two workers began to change engine oil and grease the chassis while a third attempted to repair an air leak. The third worker activated controls to raise the manure tank/spreader body and then leaned in under the raised tank to reach the air lines.
Unfortunately, the worker was crushed and fatally injured when the hydraulic hoist unexpectedly lowered the tank/spreader body.
Analysis: The manufacturer equipped the hydraulic hoist with a safety prop to support the manure tank/spreader body when raised for maintenance and repairs. The safety prop, which was intended to prevent accidents and injuries if a malfunction caused the tank/spreader body to descend, conformed to the requirements of applicable safety standards.
OSHA required workers to use the safety prop when raising and maintaining the manure tank/spreader body. The employer also trained workers and required them to use the safety prop. Ironically, the decedent was responsible for training co-workers how to use the safety prop. Tragically, he forgot to set the safety prop before going under the raised manure tank/spreader body.
Although the safety prop was used numerous times in the past, there were allegations that it was inadequate. The safety prop was tested during an inspection to confirm that it would easily support the tank/spreader body. The test also demonstrated that, if used, the safety prop would have prevented the accident.
Results: The case was tried and jury ruled in favor of the defendant manufacturer.
Thomas J. Cocchiola, PE, CSP, is a Mechanical Engineer / Safety Expert with DJS Associates and can be reached via email at experts@forensicDJS.com or via phone at 215-659-2010.