New equipment can introduce something unexpected
into the workplace: danger. A young worker, just 3 weeks on the job, fell from an elevated
platform of this order-selector-style forklift sustaining a serious head injury. These are
the findings of WorkSafeBC’s investigation. Two young workers were employed in this warehouse:
a Lead Hand, and the “New Worker.” Their job was to fill orders by hand-picking items
out of these boxes. Workers used a rolling scaffold staircase
to access the third level of racking and ladders to access the upper shelves. Thinking it would
make order-picking safer, the company purchased an order selector. Unlike a typical forklift, an order-selector
has a designated operator’s platform that the operator self-elevates to the desired
height. This new equipment gave workers easy access to all levels of racking in the warehouse. The new worker had never run a forklift before.
The Lead Hand, inadequately trained on forklift operation and fall protection herself, showed
the new worker what she knew about operating the forklift and how to put on the fall arrest
harness. With minimal instruction, the new worker was authorized to use the forklift. That wasn’t the only problem. The wood shelving
and the boxes on them protruded from the racking frame into the aisle, preventing the order
selector from running closer than 12 to 17 inches away from the racking. This added distance made it difficult for
any operator, while properly wearing the required fall protection, to reach items on the racks. The employer introduced a plywood-covered
pallet to be mounted on the forks. Workers used it as a work platform to stand on, at
elevation, to access items in the racks. This work platform was not built to comply with
required safety standards for work platforms mounted on forks. This created a serious hazard to workers.
In order to step onto the work platform from the designated operator’s platform, a worker
would have to forego using fall protection because the safety lanyard, designed to keep
the operator on the designated operator’s platform, would be too short to allow them
to reach into the racks. With a gap to reach across, an unsafe work
platform with unguarded edges, and no appropriate fall protection in use, the stage was set. On the day of the incident, the Lead Hand
directed the New Worker to move all the boxes on one set of racks to make way for new stock. The Lead Hand then went to work in a different
aisle. After lunch, she heard the forklift running. A short time later, the Lead Hand heard a
box and then something else hit the floor. She immediately went to where the New Worker
was working to see what had happened and found her on the floor, unresponsive. She had fallen
nearly 13 feet onto a concrete floor. There are many lessons to be learned here:
Always wear fall protection and remain on the designated operator’s platform when
using an order-selector style forklift. Don’t use makeshift work platforms. Doing
so defeats the built-in safety features of a designated operator’s platform and the
fall protection system. Maintain racking systems to ensure smooth
and proper operation of order selectors Follow manufacturer’s instructions for equipment
and develop safe work procedures for equipment new to the workplace. Train workers and supervisors to the CSA standard
for lift truck operators and to the fall protection requirements in the Regulation. Ensure supervisors
are knowledgeable in the procedures and that they regularly check that workers are following
them. Special care must be taken to orient, train, and supervise new and young workers. Young and inexperienced, these workers just
did not realize the hazardous conditions they were working in. Don’t just look at the
benefits new equipment can provide, make sure workers are protected against its hazards.