A number of people have sent us photographs of an incident that occurred on a job site in the USA last week.
We have now been able to confirm that it did in fact occur around 9:00 on Thursday morning and is now a subject of investigation involving the contractor, the rental company - Sunbelt Rentals and the manufacturer - Genie, and will update this more fully when we learn more.
We understand that the 32ft GS-3232 narrow aisle scissor lift was being used by a steel erector to secure the steel beams as they were placed by a crane, when the machine's fixed end pivot points parted company with the platform, causing it to tip and dump the operator. Amazingly he was wearing a harness with attached lanyard – possibly too long - but it may well have saved his life?
As to the cause, it is important not to jump to conclusions at this stage. Incidents such as this are very rare, and when they do occur it is usually down to gross overload on a long deck extension that over stresses the pins and structure at the other end of the platform. In this case the apparent failure was the other way around. A crane had just placed a steel beam and was still attached - it is possible that before this happened it caught up on the platform, and if so applied stresses that the machine is not designed to take - especially in that direction? It could also have been previous overloads or incidents where a heavy load or force has been applied to the opposite end of the platform when fully raised and has a significant cantilever?
It is just about possible that the incident was staged for training photography purposes – unlikely but not impossible. And of course it has to be said it might be due to lack of maintenance or inspection of the failed area? The point is that while this type of failure is very rare, there are many potential causes, unlike say an outrigger punching into soft ground, or an overturn on a slope.
Ordinarily we would have held off publishing this one until we learnt a bit more, however the photos are being distributed and already looking as though they might go viral without any background information.
It also highlights a very interesting dilemma regarding the use of harnesses in scissor lifts. Our view has always been against their use, on the basis that the most common - although still rare - incident with scissor lists is overturning, when the last thing you want is to be attached to the falling machine.
However, in this type of incident a harness could play a critical life saving role as it appears to have done in this case. One of the reasons this man might have been wearing a harness is that he is a steel worker and on most sites I have visited they tend to climb out of the platform onto the steelwork, or at the very least stand on the guardrails to reach bolt holes etc.... In which case a harness and longish lanyard are helpful/important.
I would still advocate against the use of harnesses in scissor lifts, but perhaps there are some applications where it does make sense. Steel erection with such small scissors might be one of those examples, but given that the application seems to produce more incidents than other scissor lift applications. Perhaps a boom lift would be a better bet?
As promised we will keep abreast of any developments and update when we learn more. In the meantime don’t jump to conclusions and if you have any information or comments that might help do feel free to send them in confidence to firstname.lastname@example.org