In a recent incident, an employee rolled a piece of equipment weighing 740 lb into a room for cleaning. During cleaning, one wheel accidently rolled into a drain causing the apparatus to tip and fall onto the worker. He received immediate medical attention for several injuries including a fractured ankle, tibia, and fibula.

How could this injury have been avoided?

The right caster — Matching the best caster design to the equipment it supports makes for easier movement and more stability. The wrong caster can be a direct source of injury if the floor is not in good condition. Cracks, holes, and drains can stop moving equipment from rolling and make it tip. Strains or more-severe injuries often follow when employees try to overcome the floor defect. The right caster may not eliminate the issue but can help prevent it.

Equipment stability — Those who design heavy mobile equipment should keep in mind that stability is critical to avoiding these types of injuries. Facilities with damaged floors, protruding objects, tight corners, large cracks, or holes are unfortunately commonplace. So it is important to design-out as many risks as possible before equipment gets put in use.

Floor-drain design — Drains should be as flush as possible with the floor while still maintaining enough pitch to remove water. This point might seem obvious, but it is commonly missed or businesses aren’t prompt about fixing a damaged drain grating. The more flush the grating system is with floor, the less likely an employee is to roll equipment into the drain.

Defect-free floors — In many facilities, floor condition plays a large part in accidents. All floors should be free of holes, cracks, and defects that can cause slip, trip, or, in this case, tip-over hazards. OSHA has requirements for floor conditions that can be found in 29 CFR 1910.22(a)(3). While this standard doesn’t identify drains, it is critical for people designing facilities to include them in analysis and design considerations. It is easy to overlook the location and type of drains as well as other floor-safety elements though they can be a primary cause of injuries.

Standard operating procedures — Employees can reduce the risk of injury by following procedures and using safe practices. It can often be a challenge to move a 740-lb large piece of equipment into a washing area — especially so if you are trying to do it by yourself. Just as it often takes two people to lift heavy objects, the same concept is in force when moving heavy, awkward, or unstable wheeled equipment.

All in all, equipment designers can’t count on employees being trained to follow best practices for moving heavy equipment and handling other nonroutine tasks. Correct procedures can enable good decision-making and go a long way in reducing the risk of injury. Good designs can empower employees to make safe choices that go a long way in avoiding incidents and ensuring they go home at the end of the day.

— Joe Tavenner

Joe Tavenner, CSP, CFPS, is a long-time Certified Safety Professional who works in occupational safety and design for safety. Got a question about safety? You can reach Joe at josephtavenner@yahoo.com.

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