This short presentation describes a preventable workplace incident where a worker in Washington state was injured on the job and is narrated by the L & I safety inspector who conducted the investigation. To view the narration script, click on the button on the lower right corner of the screen. To move between slides, or view a particular slide again, click on the same lower right hand corner button and then click on the back and forward arrows at the bottom of the screen.
Hello, my name is Joe Michielli and I am a safety & health specialist with the Department of Labor and Industries, Division of Occupational Safety and Health. I investigated an incident [in 2011] where a worker in a fresh food warehouse was seriously injured when he was struck by a powered pallet jack operated by another employee.
Riding pallet jacks, also called “PITs” or powered industrial trucks, are frequently used in warehouses to move, store and load materials. The operator can either stand on the back of the pallet jack or on the ground to control it's operations with the control handle, going either forward or backward.
In this busy warehouse, the pallet jack operators also frequently stop at the driver's office to get their freight orders for the loading of the delivery trucks. The office is located next to heavily traveled area by the pallet jacks with a pedestrian walkway on the left side, as shown in the photo. Although the pedestrian walkway was well marked with yellow paint, there was no barrier between it and the moving pallet jacks, only a low wall guard, which was actually an obstruction to the pedestrians. In this incident, the operator stopped and got off his pallet jack to go to the driver's office just as another worker entered the pedestrian area. Apparently, to give the pedestrian more room to walk, the operator attempted to move the pallet jack by grabbing the control handle while standing on the ground, but ended up striking the pedestrian in the lower leg, severely crushing his ankle. The entire incident was caught on video tape, shown in this next slide.
The pallet jack operator had been trained in the safe operation of all the company's different powered industrial trucks, but had not used this type of pallet jack for some time which was a non typical powered pallet jack. When he pulled the control handle down it activated the pallet jack causing it to move in the direction it was parked in and striking the pedestrian in the leg. As you saw in the video clip, it all happened in a matter of seconds.
Because moving vehicles such as powered pallet jacks are inherently dangerous, pedestrian walkways in areas of high vehicle traffic must have sufficient clearance and have no obstructions in them. The company was cited for not providing a sufficient safe aisle clearance for pedestrians. They addressed the hazard by removing the low wall guard in the middle of the aisle, and installing a higher barrier to protect pedestrians from pallet jack traffic as shown in this photo. Let's keep Washington Safe and Working by installing pedestrian barriers in high vehicle traffic areas in warehouses.