On a cold, dry, sunny, winter day in the U.S. South, a logging business was performing “moving day” tasks, including the preparation of a lowboy trailer for the loading of a harvesting machine. Since the lowboy had been parked on-site for 30 days, the contractor-owner and crew foreman inspected the lowboy. They identified several deficiencies, including a low hydraulic fluid level. They filled the hydraulic reservoir to capacity and moved the lowboy trailer to the cutting machine loading area. While the owner and foreman performed another task, an employee notified them that he was going to retrieve the harvesting machine and bring it back to the loading area.
The employee was in his 40s and had been around logging for most of his adult life. (The owner and foreman also had many years of logging experience.) The employee was wearing all required Personal Protective Equipment.
UNSAFE ACTS AND CONDITIONS:
Although the logging contractor had refilled the lowboy with hydraulic fluid, the prior inspection had failed to notice that the hydraulic hose connected to the hydraulic ramp was leaking. Later investigations showed that the hydraulic cylinders and lines were empty of fluid when the employee began preparing the trailer. The hydraulic system was not effectively tested for safe operation before the lowboy was put back into service.
The employee removed the safety chain that secured the ramp in an upright position on the driver’s side. He then walked around to the passenger’s side ramp to remove its safety chain, walking very close to the driver’s side ramp.
As he was passing beneath the driver’s side ramp (which weighed approximately one ton), it abruptly flopped down and struck him on his neck and upper shoulder.
The blow from the ramp crushed the employee’s neck and killed him.
RECOMMENDATIONS FOR CORRECTION:
• Before placing a lowboy or other equipment in service, the machine must be thoroughly inspected. The inspection should examine the hydraulic lines and hydraulic system, and should include testing the system before using it (that is, performing a servicing test prior to releasing it from maintenance).
• Employees should be trained never to walk underneath hydraulic ramps, grapples, blades, etc. that have been lifted off the ground. If those items must be elevated for maintenance, they should be blocked or otherwise safely secured before an individual places himself underneath them. (Note: The other hydraulic ramp was tested the day after this incident, and that ramp fell to the ground immediately after the safety chain was removed.)
• Never place yourself in a “danger zone,” usually identified by warning decals on the equipment.
Southwide Safety Committee;
Appalachian/Southwide Region Manager