Fatal Facts: Lumber Shifts – Falls on Worker


Forklift in position after the load came down. Note board
pile in front of the forklift, preventing the forklift from getting closer to the second story.

A 32-year-old construction worker was killed when a load of lumber, being lifted to the second story of a residence under construction, shifted and fell on him. Law enforcement officers investigating the scene reported that another worker was on the second floor, helping to guide the load into position and acting as a safety spotter. The equipment that was being used to lift the load was a rough terrain forklift. The load being lifted was extended beyond the ability of the rough terrain type forklift to counterbalance and it upended. The load shifted and the falling bundle of lumber struck the victim, who was attempting to climb through a stairwell hole to access the second floor at the same time. The victim was killed instantly. Neither the loader operator nor the victim was aware of the others position or activity.


Rough terrain forklift in approximately the position it would have been in just before coming down. Traverse boom is in the position it was in, when sitting on the roof (boom extension unchanged). Note height of lift from ground (~22-24 ft). The equipment has not been moved out of position.
In upended position, the boom is extended between “D” and “E” load rating. Weight of load was calculated to be 3600-3800 lbs. extended ~24ft. The maximum load range at this reach and arc is 2000-3000 lbs.
  • Never work under a load being lifted into position. No one should be allowed within the swing of a crane or lift, unless they are expected to be there (e.g., spotters, guides etc.). No one should ever be allowed to be directly under the load at any time.
  • Stay within the safe working parameters of the crane or lift and do not exceed the recommended load or reach specifications. Ensure that all mobile equipment operators are trained or certified in the operation of the equipment prior to use.
  • Designate a person to act as a spotter and communicate with others on site and the equipment operator. There should be a communication system worked out between all workers, (i.e., hand signals, whistles, walkie-talkies) if out of visual range.
  • Communicate to workers what kinds of work activities are planned and any safety expectations.
  • Ladders should extend beyond the surface being accessed and tied off to increase stability, when in use.
Workers at this site were using the top step of the stepladder to step from the ladder onto the door header (actually the landing for future stairs) and then finally onto the second floor. The victim was standing on this ladder attempting to access the second floor when the load shifted and fell, striking him. Use a ladder that extends above the surface to provide additional stability. It’s not uncommon to find construction workers carrying tools, equipment, or wearing cumbersome tool belts that only serve to decrease their ability to maintain balance and prevent falls.