Incident summary: Supervisors mistakenly thought it wasn’t dangerous for heavy bales to be stacked to the height of 24 feet.
The damage: Due to limited floor space, warehouse workers were forced to stack six bales of materials weighing up to 1,200 pounds to the height of 24 feet.
The bales were positioned using a forklift with a bale clamp attachment. The bales were placed on either side of a door that led to an office area.
A female supervisor who worked in the office area needed to walk through the warehouse in order to reach the break room. She opened the door that had the stacks of bales on either side of it.
Just as she did so, a driver using a forklift to position bales noticed that one of the stacks was becoming unstable. He called to the woman: “Look out.”
Just as the supervisor turned toward him, four bales fell over. One bale struck her in the lower body and knocked her to the ground. Another bale landed on top of her.
The forklift driver dialed 9-1-1, then began to move the bales off the victim.
Despite the best efforts of emergency responders, the woman was declared dead due to a fractured skull.
Findings: The employer failed to identify the potential hazard of falling bales because there’d been no previous reports of tumbling bales, and workers hadn’t expressed concerns about stacking hazards.
If the stacking of bales to the height of 24 feet had been marked as a potential hazard, the employer could’ve developed a safe stacking plan, which would’ve forbidden the placing of six bales on top of each other; only four bales should’ve been stacked at once.
(From the March 2, 2020, issue of Safety Alert for Supervisors)