Boom Lift Defects Are Killing and Injuring Construction Workers
Construction sites are inherently dangerous places. If equipment is defective or ill-designed work sites can be even more hazardous. This appears to be the case with boom lift defects.
A report in Trial magazine, the publication of the American Association for Justice documented the case of Robert Chismer, a construction worker in Florida.
Chismer was crushed between his aerial boom’s lift platform controls and a sprinkler pipe. A medical examiner ruled the cause of death was compression asphyxiation.
For almost two decades since 2000, workers continued to suffer injuries and fatalities from boom lift defects.
The Trial magazine report said the fatalities are continuing notwithstanding the existence of a safety guard that could prevent workers from being trapped between their lifts and unseen obstructions.
The article by Philadelphia attorney David Kwass noted aerial boom lifts, also known as mobile elevating work platforms, are frequently used to elevate workers instead of ladders and scaffolding, which have their own inherent dangers.
They are motorized platforms equipped with buckets that are elevated via an extending arm. The operators of the platforms elevate them by widening the boom angle and extending the boom itself.
One issue with safety implications is the fact operators look at their control panel which means they may not be looking out for obstructions. On occasions, operators have struck their heads or backs on an overhead obstacle like a support beam.
In some cases, the operator’s body has become jammed against the controls causing the boom lift to keep going into the obstruction causing crush injuries to the worker.
Boom Lift Defects and The Response of the Construction Industry
By the mid-2000s, worker safety agencies were becoming aware of the problem and making recommendations. In the United Kingdom, the Health and Safety Executive urged manufacturers to redesign controls on the boom lifts that could prevent them being operated involuntarily.
In 2008, the HSE acknowledged the boom lift defects and recommended protected controls.
From 2012 to 2014, all the major boom manufacturers started fitting operator crush countermeasures.
Smart barrier guards are installed between the operator and the controller to address the entrapment hazard. However, the Trial article noted rental companies are not routinely steering their customers to boom lifts equipped with smart barrier guards.
These companies are cutting corners even when they know the customers will be working close to overhead obstructions.
It’s very alarming to learn about this hazard. Construction sites are dangerous places at the best of times. Workers can fall from scaffolding or be hit by falling material. It seems equipment rental companies are continuing to cut corners and take risks with the lives of workers.
If you or a loved one has been involved in a construction site accident, please call our Virginia personal injury lawyers at (757) 455-0077.