In July, 1995 a self-employed tree trimmer (the victim) died from head and neck injuries caused by falling 50 feet from a boom truck bucket. The victim was using an older "cherry picker" boom truck to trim trees with a small chainsaw at a friend's acreage. The lower section of the hydraulic boom and the hinge area was constructed of metal. The upper section and the bucket were made of fiberglass. The upper section was round and approximately 8 inches in diameter. At the time of the accident the boom was in maximum vertical extension above the truck. The victim was holding a 70 lb. branch that he had just cut. He momentarily hyperextended the fiberglass boom to clear the truck cab. At this extreme point in its travel, the upper section of the boom snapped completely in two at its base where it inserted into the metal hinge portion of the boom. The fiberglass arm swung down like a pendulum to a resting position, the broken ends being held adjacent to each other by cables inside the extension arms. These cables automatically keep the bucket level with the ground in normal operation. When the boom arm broke, the bucket remained in a fixed position with the fiberglass arm, inverting when it swung down, propelling the victim headlong into the ground, killing him instantly. When emergency personnel arrived, they observed the fatal head and neck injuries and confirmed that the man was dead at the scene. The victim was not wearing a hard hat, nor any type of safety belt or harness. Recommendations following our investigation were as follows: 1. Boom truck operators should wear fall protective equipment as outlined in 29 CFR 1926.566 (b)(2v), "A body belt shall be worn and a lanyard attached to the boom or bucket when working from an aerial lift." 2. All equipment which mechanically supports or lifts human life should be maintained in excellent working condition, with routine inspections and maintenance of all parts by qualified technicians. 3. Tree trimmers and boom truck owners should not use a boom arm as a crane to move logs, tree limbs, or objects which exceed its rated capacity. (CFR 1926.556 (b)(2vi).
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