Scissor failure highlights harness issue

Scissor failure highlights harness issue

It looks as though the harness and lanyard might have saved this man's life?

29. January 2018 

A number of people have sent us photographs of an incident that apparently occurred on a job site in the USA last week.So far - due more to timing than anything else - we have been unable to confirm beyond all reasonable doubt when or where it happened.

We have been told that it was around 9:00 on Thursday morning and have requested information from the relevant staff at the rental company and the manufacturer, and will update this more fully when we have this information. 

From the number of readers who have sent them in, the photos are rapidly being circulated and the fact that they do not appear to have been photoshopped - hence this report now - and due to the fact that it highlights the use of the 'harnesses in scissor lifts' dilemma. 

We understand that the 32ft narrow aisle scissor lift was being used by a steel erector to secure the steel beams as they were placed by a crane, when the fixed end pivot points parted company with the platform, causing it to tip and dump the operator.

Amazingly he was wearing a harness with attached lanyard – possibly too long - but it may well have saved his life? However it is possible that had the platform entrance gate been closed, he might have remained in the platform - depending on where he was standing in the platform - which could have been a little less traumatic? Although saying that the lay of the harness suggests he went over the guardrails.

As to the cause, it is important not to jump to conclusions at this stage. Incidents such as this are very rare, and when they do occur it is usually down to gross overload on a long deck extension that over stresses the pins and structure at the other end of the platform.

In this case the apparent failure was the other way around. A crane had just placed a beam and was still attached - it is possible that before this happened it was caught up on the platform and if so applied stresses that the machine is not designed to take - especially in that direction? It could also have been previous overloads or incidents where a heavy load or force has been applied to the end of the opposite end of the platform when fully raised and has a cantilever? 

Scissor failure highlights harness issueWhile rare there are numerous potential causes of failures such as this

It is just about possible that the incident was staged for training photography purposes – unlikely but not impossible. And of course it has to be said it might also be due to lack of maintenance or inspection of the failed area?

The point is that while this type of failure is very rare, there are many potential causes, unlike say an outrigger punching into soft ground, or an overturn on a slope. 

Vertikal Comment

Ordinarily we would have held off publishing this one until we learnt more about it - assuming we do - however their distribution is gathering rapid momentum. It also highlights a very interesting dilemma regarding the use of harnesses in scissor lifts.

Our view has always been against their use, on the basis that the most common - although still rare - incident with scissor lists is overturning, when the last thing you want is to be attached to the falling machine. 

However, in this type of incident a harness could play a critical life saving role as it appears to have done in this case. One of the reasons this man might have been wearing a harness is that he is a steel worker and on most sites I have visited they climb out of the platform onto the beams, or at the least stand on the guardrails to reach over them. In which case a harness and longish lanyard are helpful/important. 

I would still advocate against their use in scissor lifts, but perhaps there are some applications where it does make sense, and steel erection with such small scissors might be one of those examples, given that it seems to produce more incidents that other scissor lift applications. Perhaps a boom lift would be a better bet? 

As promised we will keep digging and update when we learn more. In the meantime don’t jump to conclusions and if you have any information or comments that might help do feel free to send them in confidence to

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