Elevating Safety to New Heights: While Working with Personnel Workbaskets and Powered Industrial Trucks Can Be Risky, There Are Ways to Reduce the Risk of Falls and Injuries

By Braun, Theodore | Occupational Hazards, March 2007 | Go to article overview

Elevating Safety to New Heights: While Working with Personnel Workbaskets and Powered Industrial Trucks Can Be Risky, There Are Ways to Reduce the Risk of Falls and Injuries


Braun, Theodore, Occupational Hazards


Two workers were injured, one fatally, in a tragic fall at the Arkansas State Fairgrounds during the installation of a banner in the food court, approximately 16 feet off the ground. The two men were working together in the personnel "basket" affixed to a forklift when they stepped to the same side, causing the platform to tip. Both men fell to the pavement. One suffered severe head injuries and was pronounced dead at the scene.

Working with powered industrial trucks (PIT) equipped with personnel workbaskets can be high-risk if not done properly. Even with the right equipment properly installed, workbaskets are risky, since the people in the basket have no control over its vertical or horizontal movement. Because of this lack of control, personnel workbaskets should be used infrequently for emergency operations where the use of ladders, scaffolding, elevated work platforms or other conventional means of access is not practical.

Fortunately, there are design and operating guidelines to help you reduce the risk of workbasket injury or accident.

Work Platforms

Whether you are purchasing a pre-made platform or designing it yourself, make sure your platform conforms to government regulations. The following guidelines will help you put in place the right equipment:

1) Check the load limit. A platform should be able to support four times its maximum working load and, depending on the platform's complexity and intended use, an engineering review may be needed.

2) Secure the platform to the fork carriage or backrest so that it will support its weight and not move on the forks. Chains, turnbuckles, hoisting-grade chain and wire rope securement systems all can provide reliable platform support.

3) Fit the platform with a top guardrail approximately 1065 mm (42 inches) high, a mid-rail and a kick plate around the sides of 127 mm (5 inches) minimum. You also can use metal screening in lieu of a mid-rail.

4) The platform's access door should be a minimum of 460 mm (18 inches) wide and 1065 mm (42 inches) high and have a securing mechanism to keep the door closed when the platform is in use.

5) Design the platform so the forklift guides are the only open positions that the forks may enter. The bottom of the platform should be closed to avoid fork misplacement.

Install machine guards on all moving machinery--including gears, chains and shearing hazards.

6) Install a skid-resistant surface on the platform deck and label the platform to indicate the number of workers who may occupy the platform, the maximum working load of the platform and other appropriate criteria considered necessary for safe operation, such as "never use near energized electrical lines," etc.

After putting so much time and effort into constructing a safe work platform, make sure your workers use it properly.

Safe Forklift Operation and Use

To help reduce the risk of injury your workers face while using a personnel workbasket, provide forklift operators with hands-on training and have them review the manufacturer's operating manual for each forklift you own. …

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