A truck mounted lift overturned in Chingford, Essex in the UK on Tuesday. The Palfinger P480 had been rehired from the Blade Access fleet for a film set on location and was being used with a lighting rig set up and operated from the lower controls when it went over. Thankfully no one was hurt in the incident.
This is at least the third such incident with a P480 when used on this type of application. At least one of the previous incidents was due to overloading, which was the case with this one. Blade has issued the following statement which explains what happened in full.
“On the evening of Tuesday 5th October at 21:15hrs, one of the Palfinger P480’s from the Blade Access UK rental fleet was involved in an accident while in operation on a media location site in London. The platform was being operated by a direct employee of Blade Access who has to date completed in excess of two and half years’ service with the business without any previous incidents. All training requirements for the Operator, both external and internal, are completed and up to date. The platform itself was manufactured in 2017 and in sound working order. It had passed its latest LOLER Inspection without any identified defects.
The platform was rehired by another powered access rental company, and it can be confirmed that all pre-use checks and internal remote site audit work flows were satisfactorily completed and documented/submitted and approved prior to commencement of the hire at 15:00hrs.
During the hire, the platform was operated from both the work cage and ground control systems without issue. At approximately six hours into the hire, the end client began to advise our Operator that the lighting for the shoot wasn’t quite right and several requests were made for the Operator to extend the platform a few meters further by lowering the extended boom.
Although the Operator advised that the platform was already working on its maximum permissible limits, it appears additional pressure was put on to the Operator to make it happen. It is at this stage that the Operator succumbed to site persuasion and decided to then switch the platform in to ‘Emergency Mode’. He then proceeded to lower the main boom section taking the unit out of its safe working envelope. The platform then passed its tipping point and lost stability. Fortunately, no personnel were in the platform when the accident occurred and no persons on the ground were injured. While the Operator himself initially suffered from shock and was subsequently admitted to hospital, he was thankfully later released in the early hours.
This accident is a clear case of human error and whilst the Operator had completed both generic and platform specific documented training in relation to Emergency Systems, a decision he chose to make made has ultimately compromised the stability of the platform. While this is not the first accident to be caused as a result of a platform being worked outside of its intended parameters, it still provides a stark reminder to all who operate such equipment why Emergency Systems should only ever be used for their intended purpose in any circumstance.
Behavioural psychology can clearly play its part in accidents and Blade Access will certainly be investigating how the business can support our Operators further at any time of day when challenging or pressurised situations arise as in this case.”
Blade’s reaction to our enquiries regarding this incident should be roundly applauded. It is precisely the reaction, or rather attitude, that should take place when such incidents happen. Sadly, this is rarely the case. I have seen first-hand how some large contractors - who produce pages and pages of fine words on how important safety and their people are to them, and who are quick take the stage to collect a fancy safety award, while being guilty of applying pressure to equipment operators on site, to push their machines beyond the limits and then try to suppress any information on what happened when a near miss occurs.
All too often when we ask companies for a statement following numerous reports of an incident, their first reaction is “where did get this information from, who sent you the photograph?” Catching the ‘whistle blower’ being more important that helping make the industry safer. A few rental companies are also guilty of this practice.
Thankfully they are not all like that. Perhaps safety authorities could help by adding additional penalties on those who try to supress information, while being more lenient on those who are open and clearly interested in helping others avoid making a similar operating error?
Rental company owners can also make a difference by insisting and encouraging their operators to report all attempts by clients or site staff to coerce them into pushing their machine beyond its safe limits, as occurred in this case. Companies should then take these reports up with the client’s senior management, possibly putting them on record.
Hopefully Blade’s report will serve widely as training material and a warning to what can happen in such circumstances.
Lastly, I wonder who feels worse tonight - the platform’s operator, or those that pushed him to “go the extra mile”?