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Sectors of the construction industry are reporting resurgence and growth in 2013. Single and multi-family housing, commercial, institutional and public works construction is predicted to increase up to 28% in some areas. This is good news for the industry and the economy but the increase in construction activity has historically led to an increase in construction accidents.

According to the Center for Construction Research a nd Training, 2% to 3% of construction fatalities in a given year, over two dozen of them, involve aerial lifts. The largest percentage of these, 70%, involves boom lifts. Scissors lifts account for over 25%. The major causes are falls, electrocutions, collapses and tipovers.*

With a growing workforce and an influx of new workers, it is all the more important to take steps to ensure that the number of accidents and fatalities does not increase accordingly. Training and workplace safety are the keys to accident avoidance, and adequate preparation and knowledge of aerial lift accident issues can substantially reduce the problems associated with these accidents should they occur.

Steps in the prevention of aerial lift accidents include:

1. Proper operator training ANSI requires it, OSHA mandates it, and it is only common sense that equipment that can be potentially hazardous be ope rated only by those who know what they're doing. The current ANSI standar ds state that operator training is the responsibility of the employer, and all aerial lift standards require operators to read the operator's manual prior to use. Without this familiarization, an aerial lift is a potentially dangerous tool. Casual users such as private individuals renting lifts often omit th is step. Unauthorized use by those not trained or given permission to use the equipment may become an issue.

2. Proper Lift Maintenance ANSI standards require that aerial platforms not in proper operating condition should not be used and be immediately removed from service until repaired. All repairs are to be made by a qualified person using equivalent replacement parts.

3. Pre-start Inspections Some type of pre-start in spection is required for all types of aerial lifts. These cover controls, safety devices, machine components, and warning signs and decals.

4. Misapplication of the Machine Make sure the proper machine is being used for the job at hand. Know the capacity of the machine and the load it is required to carry. Carefully note the different capacities for lift platforms with roll-out extensions. These change with the use of the roll-out. Do not use a machine rated for 'level ground only' on any sort of rough terrain.

5. Outriggers and Interlocks Always use outri ggers where required and never defeat any of the machine's interlocks.

Should an accident occur, there are a numb er of steps that should be taken:

1. The insured should inform its carrier immediately of an accident and assume litigation is already involved. Toll-free numbers may expedite the flow of information to the appropriate contacts. The first call should capture the basic facts of the event such as questions of injury, property damage and witness identification.

2. Claims personnel should respond for a site investigation immediately, ideally with the rental company manager or other involved parties, and an engineering investigator who can analyze the situation while evidence is fresh. A prearranged relationship with an engineering investigator familiar to the insurer shortens t he reaction time since finding an investigator is one less thing to do. The professional investigator knows how to cooperat e with all OSHA, fire, law enforcement, and medical responders, as well as how to minimize spoliation of evidence and the safety risk involved when altering lift machinery during rescue operations.

3. Preliminary interviews should be conducted with witnesses while their memories are still fresh.

4. After the site investigation, the machinery and documentation should be removed, taken to the owner's facility, tagged as having been in an acci dent, and retained without repair or alteration. Maintenance and rental records should then be obtained.

EFI Global can assist in the event of an aerial lift accident by:

1. Providing a licensed professional engineer qua lified to perform accident investigations with knowledge of the standards applicable to the lift equipment involved, custom and practice associated with the particular equipment, and familiarity with aerial lift components and systems.

2. Providing the depth of available services (e.g ., metallurgical, failure, and structural analysis; human factors; accident reconstruction) required fo r a thorough investigation, all from a single source.

3. Providing experienced consultation through a ll phases of the accident event from initial investigation through reporting and litigati on proceedings should they be required.

Why search for an engineering professional the day t he accident occurs? An ongoing relationship with a multi-disciplinary engineering org anization such as EFI provides prom pt availability of services from a familiar source should an accident investigation be required.

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EFI Global is a full-service Engineering, Fire Investigation, Environmental, Health and Safety, and specialty consulting firm. Over the last four decades, they have grown from a boutique firm to become a recognized leader in engineering failure analysis, origin and cause investigations, and environmental consulting. This expertise coupled with the extensive coverage of our 27 national offices, more than 400 professionals, and global work abroad capability allows EFI Global to deliver timely responses that consistently meets their clients' expectations.

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