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Jon Pina. MS CSP

Case Synopsis:

The plaintiff was injured when he was struck by a scissor lift in tight quarters as he was in the process of framing and installing dry wall at a construction site. He was in the process of installing metal studs when he noticed that a scissors lift, driven by the defendant (a plumbing and HVAC contractor) was approaching his work area. As he leaned up against a column, in plain view, as their eyes met, he was struck by the scissors lift in disbelief that it did not stop. After striking the plaintiff and pinning him against a steel column, the defendant backed up immediately and caught the plaintiff�s tool belt with the scissor lift frame, dragging him at least two feet backwards, causing tears to his tool belt.

Approximately twenty minutes later the defendant, after striking the plaintiff, struck and damaged fifteen feet of a wall.

Expert Analysis:

The General Contractor (GC) did not want to "delay" the project until the plumbing work was completed to have the subcontractors installing drywall. OSHA established a "Multi-employer Directive" to safely coordinate the activities of multiple contractors. The General Contractor, should have relied on engineering (removing hazard) and administrative controls (managing personnel), as well as good training, to remove the risk of scissor lifts striking people and walls.

The plaintiff did not follow the scissor lift operation manual warning "Ensure that there is no person(s) in the path of travel." The plaintiff claimed he felt he could approach within one foot of a stationary person on a job site safely. The plaintiff claimed he did not have any training on the operation of the scissor lift because he had many years experience operating one and claimed he had no need to read the scissor lift operation manual.

My calculation of 1 mile/hour translates to 1.5 feet/second. (Given that there are 5,280 feet in a mile and 3,600 seconds in an hour) My calculation of 2 miles/hour translates to 3.0 feet/second. It is my opinion that 1.5 feet/sec to 3.0 feet per second is too dangerously fast to approach a pedestrian, especially in close quarters. The plaintiff testified he thought the scissor lift speed was 1 mph but did not know.

The defendant never should have traveled in the direction of the plaintiff in such close quarters, regardless of his perception "slow" speed. The GC should have not allowed the two contractors to work within such close proximity, especially with a scissor lift being operated among workers. Although OSHA�s forklift standards did not apply to a scissor lift, the defendant�s employer should have assured he had training and was capable of safely operating the scissor lift. The GC�s "Competent Person" was a supervisor who wore too many "hats" and was unable to properly supervise as evidenced by allowing a scissor lift to be operated by a careless operator.


The case was settled by an arbitrator.

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Jon Pina, MS, CSP, is a Safety, Health, & Environmental Expert. With more than thirty years experience in safety management, loss prevention, construction and demolition, coal, chemical, steel, and hazardous waste abatement, Mr. Pina can observe cases from a well-rounded viewpoint of a Safety and Health professional, construction manager, and "hands on" worker. Among his most notable accomplishments, he has held the position of Construction Manager on many large-scale demolition projects. He also has demonstrated expertise in areas such as the operation of chemical plants and gained field experience as a union journeyman pipe fitter.

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