Fatality Assessment and Control Evaluation (FACE) Program
Load of Lumber Shifts and Falls on Construction Worker Killing Him
A 32-year-old construction worker was killed when a load of lumber being lifted to the second story of a residence under construction, shifted and fell on him. Law enforcement officers investigating the scene reported that another worker was on the second floor helping to guide the load into position and acting as a safety spotter. The equipment that was being used to lift the load was a rough terrain forklift. The load being lifted was extended beyond the ability of the rough terrain type forklift to counterbalance and it upended. The load shifted and the falling bundle of lumber struck the victim, who was attempting to climb through a stairwell hole to access the second floor at the same time. The victim was killed instantly. Neither the loader operator nor the victim was aware of the others position or activity.
This incident occurred during the construction of a residential dwelling. The framing subcontractor and his crew had finished framing the home’s first story and were beginning to work on the second story. The interior walls had been completed and a stepladder was being used to access the second floor through an open stairwell where the stairs had not yet been built.
The framing crew consisted of 4 Hispanic males and the non-Hispanic subcontractor. The crew had been on site 3 or 4 days when the incident occurred.
A wire wrapped bundle of lumber was being lifted into position using a rented rough terrain forklift. A worker on the second floor was assisting the operator in moving the bundle of lumber into position as a spotter. The crane boom was fully extended while the forklift was positioned approximately 10 ft in front of the home to place the load in the center of the second floor. Photo 2 demonstrates the vertical height above the second floor, crane extension and equipment placement from home. This photo was taken immediately after the forklift had its load removed and its rear tires were lowered onto the ground. This is similar to the position that it would have been in, before the forklift was upended. The load being lifted was estimated to weigh approximately 3600-3800 lbs. The maximum load for the forklift with the boom fully extended at this arc was 2000-3000 lbs.
The victim had worked for the subcontractor for approximately 2 years and was the crew’s lead framer. He was Mexican and language was occasionally a barrier to communication. According to witnesses, the victim’s ability to understand English was better than his ability to speak the language. The victim, however, acted as the crew leader and routinely translated information to the other crew members.
At the time of the incident, he was standing on the top of a stepladder in the home’s stairwell while the load was being lifted into position, above him. According to law enforcement reports, the victim was working with his head just at the level of the top plate or slightly above. He was wearing a hard hat when the bundle of lumber struck him. According to witnesses on the scene, neither the employer nor the victim was aware of what the other was doing. As the load shifted, the safety spotter is reported to have given a hurried warning to the victim. But the warning was too late and the bundle of lumber fell striking the victim in the area of the upper torso and head. He was momentarily pinned between the stepladder and the bundle of lumber. The load shifted slightly again and came to rest above the stairwell. The victim was released and fell approximately 8 feet to the first floor deck, where he was found dead. The initial crush injury was likely fatal.
Cause of Death
Severe trauma to the head.
Recommendation #1: Never work under a load being lifted into position. No one should be allowed within the swing of a crane or lift, unless they are expected to be there e.g., spotters, guides etc. No one should ever be allowed to be directly under the load at any time.
Discussion: Loads being lifted by overhead cranes or lifts can fall causing injury to those below. The work area immediately beneath the lift should be clear. No workers or other employees’ should ever be allowed to remain under a load being lifted overhead. If there is a possibility that the lift will take place over occupied areas, those employees safety should also be considered, especially if they are not part of the construction effort, e.g., office workers. These employees should be asked to evacuate the area, during the time of the overhead work. The only exception for allowing people in the swing of a crane is for spotters or employees guiding the load. Even then, employees working in the swing of the crane should never work directly under the load. Employees working within the swing of a crane should wear highly visible clothing to allow them to stand out from the background. Workers should wear hard hats any time there is a chance of an overhead hazard i.e., a possibility of injury to the head from small falling objects. When there is the chance of other “non essential personnel” entering the area where lifts are being performed, use caution tape, safety watchers and erect barricades to minimize incursions into the swing of the boom. The use of highly visible personal protective equipment (e.g., safety vests and hard hats) help equipment operators to locate workers and are a warning to others that special precautions must be taken to enter the area or they should stay out. Employees who may be incidental to the lift should be advised of any lift activities occurring at the work site and how to avoid risk of injury.
|Photo 3. Workers at this site were using the top step of
the stepladder to step from the ladder onto the door header (actually
the landing for future stairs) and then finally onto the second floor.
The victim was standing on this ladder attempting to access the second
floor when the load shifted and fell, striking him. Use ladder that
extends above the surface to provide additional stability. It’s
not uncommon to find construction workers carrying tools, equipment
or wearing cumbersome tool belts that only serve to decrease their
ability to maintain balance and prevent falls.
|Photo 4. In upended position, the boom is extended between “D” and “E” load rating. Weight of load was calculated to be 3600-3800 lbs. extended ~24ft. The maximum load range at this reach and arc is 2000-3000 lbs.|
The Center for Research on Occupational and Environmental Toxicology at Oregon Health & Science University performs Fatality Assessment and Control Evaluation (FACE) investigations through a cooperative agreement with the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), Division of Safety Research (DSR). The goal of these evaluations is to prevent fatal work injuries in the future by studying the working environment, the worker, the task the worker was performing, the tools the worker was using, the energy exchange resulting in fatal injury, and the role of management in controlling how these factors interact.
To contact Oregon State FACE program personnel regarding State-based FACE reports, please use information listed on the Contact Sheet on the NIOSH FACE web site. Please contact In-house FACE program personnel regarding In-house FACE reports and to gain assistance when State-FACE program personnel cannot be reached.