A man had a lucky escape from a spider lift yesterday in Aberdeen, Scotland after the machine tilted over due to one of the outriggers raising.
The machine, a Hinowa belonging to Height for Hire (The UK one, which is unrelated to Height for Hire in the Ireland) was being used to work on a care home on the city.
The lift was held firm by the raised outrigger until the fire service arrived for the rescue.
What is clear is that either the operator managed to raise one of the outriggers while he was in the air, or he had not put it all the way down in the first place. Technically neither situation is possible due to the machines interlocks.
The positive thing is that the outrigger was at least partially down and did hold firm, allowing the emergency services to be called to come and rescue the operator without injury.
Health and Safety inspectors were investigating the incident last night.
A closer look
Following the investigation an HSE prohibition order was placed in this individual machine, and it was subjected to a fll test and investigation.
We can now confirm that the machine had been tampered with on site, we understand that the operator experienced a lockout on the machine which after talking with the distributor the error code suggested a specific outrigger interlock switch was sticking.
A call-out was organised to check it over and if necessary replace the switch. However in the meantime someone on site decided to fix it, and in doing so removed the outrigger retaining pin in order to reach the interlock switch, which they somehow managed to override. They then re-installed the pin BUT missed the outrigger beam eye altogether.
The modification allowed the operator to use the machine, but then while he was working at height the outrigger beam slipped from its position, causing the machine to tilt, and then as a result cut-out as it should.
Thankfully the outrigger beam also jammed in the retaining weldment and prevented an overturn. So the operator was rescued without physical injury.
This is a classic example of why interfering with safety systems does not pay. Thankfully the design of this machine was such that it did not completely overturn.
The sad thing is that the contractor using the machine appears to have chosen not to communicate the details of this incident more widely. It is a classic case study and one that happily ended without physical injury. However the thoughtlessness of those responsible have unwittingly caused significant distress to dozens of others and have, one assumes cost the contractor himself in terms of delays and lost time etc
Others affected include the rental company that rehired the machine for the customer, the rental company that owned the machine and its staff, the distributor and the manufacturer all of whom will have been wondering what went wrong with their machine in the immediate aftermath. Wondering if they had done anything wrong and what effect it might have on their reputations etc…
The fact is that the world has changed and is changing, the old idea that when something goes wrong like this you hide and suppress it has passed – it’s just that too many people in the construction and facilities maintenance field have yet to realize it. With camera phones, and internet in everyone’s pocket, word of mouth has gone global. While many of us would wish to return to simpler times when this was not so, the fact is this is the brave new world and one we had better get used to.
What it means is that companies such as the end user in this case need to make sure that their staff know beyond all doubt that you do not mess with equipment that can be lethal when modified. Being completely open with information on incidents such as this so that everyone is aware of how a seemingly innocent and well-intended action can have fatal consequences, can help ensure that this becomes a reality.