Saturday, May 20, 2017

THE CRUSHING DEATH OF ALEC SAUNDERS AT THE BURNSVILLE MENARDS: Menards workers complained for years that the company's forklifts are too small for the loads they carry

Worker says Menards was warned about forklifts before fatal accident 

Friday, May 19, 2017 by Susan Du in News

"Is that the world you're happy to hand down to your children and grandchildren?" Nicholas Eckhart

On May 5, a 27-year-old forklift operator named Alec Saunders was crushed to death at the Burnsville Menards.

Saunders hadn't been at the job for long. For training, he'd been made to watch an instructional video, given a paper test, and observed driving. The day of the accident, he was lifting a load of 16-foot lumber that had been stored on a high bunk, possibly 10 to 14 feet tall, according to yard workers. The forklift began to tip over, Saunders leapt out, and was crushed by his machine. He died from blunt force chest injuries.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is still investigating how the accident happened and whether it could have been prevented. But as news of Saunders' death spread through Menards' ranks, one worker reached out to City Pages to say Menards workers complained for years that the company's forklifts are too small for the loads they carry.

The worker, who asked not to be named for fear of being fired, says most Menards forklifts typically have a weight capacity of 5,000 pounds, but that limit is not supposed to be lifted all the way up.

"They pick up lifts of lumber that are 16-, 18-, 20-foot long. A full bunk of 16-foot that's wet because they get a lot of moisture in them, those forklifts will bounce up and down," the worker says. "The person on the forklift will be bouncing because of how much weight it is. And I've talked to the yard manager numerous times to get a bigger forklift."

The worker says he believes the Burnsville Menards did get a larger forklift -- though only after Saunders' death.

"I was told today that each store is supposedly going to get a 6,000-pound forklift so they can handle these better, but I'll tell you in my personal opinion, a 6,000-pound forklift is still too small to handle a 20-foot lift of lumber."

There's no licensing requirement for forklift operators, according to the Minnesota Department of Labor and Industry. Employers alone are responsible for training and evaluating workers before they're allowed to drive them.

City Pages asked Menards to confirm what type of forklifts are used at the Burnsville location, whether the company has any regulations on how much weight is put on them, and how operators are trained. Spokesman Jeff Abbott says because Saunders' death is still under investigation, he is unable to provide any information.

Over the past decade, OSHA has cited Minnesota Menards for 45 safety violations, most of which were found in routine inspections.

Near-miss forklift accidents don't get reported to OSHA, says spokesman Jim Honerman, but fatalities do. Of these, Saunders' is not the first in recent years. In 2012, Evaristo Alvarado, a Menards maintenance worker in Illinois, died when he became trapped in the forklift he was fixing, and was crushed.

And about two years ago, 54-year-old George Young from Nebraska was rearranging trusses in the warehouse when his forklift veered toward some storage racks. Young was fatally pinned between the racks and his forklift. OSHA cited Menards for a serious safety violation because Young's body was able to pass beneath the storage rack's lower shelf, a crushing hazard.

"This preventable tragedy demonstrates how quickly a routine workday can turn deadly," said Bonita Winingham of OSHA at the time. "Employers must educate and train forklift operators and others working in warehouses to remove debris and other material from the path of forklifts."

OSHA suggested that Menards could prevent future tragedies by lowering their shelves, or using different types of forklifts.

"In my opinion, they don't really care," the Menards worker says. "They don't tell [forklift operators] they can't lift something."

This accident could have been avoided by using the proper style forklift for a lumber yard. Safety conscious lumber yards use a dual tire front axle with a wider wheel base style forklift.  This has been an issue with 20 ft units of lumber for all of the 25 years people have worked in Menards outside yard. Management has been told, which in turn has asked Menards Central Office if they could split the 20 ft units.  However, it fell on deaf ears.

What are powered industrial trucks?
Powered industrial trucks, commonly called forklifts or lift trucks, are used in many industries, primarily to move materials. They can also be used to raise, lower, or remove large objects or a number of smaller objects on pallets or in boxes, crates, or other containers. Powered industrial trucks can either be ridden by the operator or controlled by a walking operator. Over-the-road haulage trucks and earth-moving equipment that has been modified to accept forks are not considered powered industrial trucks.
What are the hazards associated with operating powered industrial trucks?
There are many types of powered industrial trucks. Each type presents different operating hazards. For example, a sit-down, counterbalanced high-lift rider truck is more likely than a motorized hand truck to be involved in a falling load accident because the sit-down rider truck can lift a load much higher than a hand truck. Workplace type and conditions are also factors in hazards commonly associated with powered industrial trucks. For example, retail establishments often face greater challenges than other worksites in maintaining pedestrian safety. Beyond that, many workers can also be injured when (1) lift trucks are inadvertently driven off loading docks; (2) lifts fall between docks and an unsecured trailer; (3) they are struck by a lift truck; or (4) they fall while on elevated pallets and tines.
PIT Sticker
It is a violation of Federal law for anyone UNDER 18 years of age to operate a forklift or for anyone OVER 18 years of age who is not properly trained and certified to do so.
What can be done to reduce the hazards related to powered industrial trucks?
Determining the best way to protect workers from injury largely depends on the type of truck operated and the worksite where it is being used. Employers must ensure that each powered industrial truck operator is competent to operate a powered industrial truck safely, as demonstrated by the successful completion of the training and evaluation specified in 29 CFR 1910.178(l)(1).

Sample Daily Checklists for Powered Industrial Trucks

The following checklists are intended to assist in providing training on OSHA's powered industrial truck operator standards. They are not a substitute for any of the provisions of the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 or for any standards issued by the U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). OSHA wishes to acknowledge that this checklist and related graphics was developed in cooperation with the Industrial Truck Association as part of the OSHA-ITA Alliance.

The OSHA standard for powered industrial truck training [29 CFR 1910.178(l)] requires that an employer provide training to truck operators on a variety of topics. Among these topics are vehicle inspection and maintenance that the operator will be required to perform. The following checklists are being provided as part of OSHA's ongoing effort to assist employers and employees in ensuring that a safe and healthful workplace is provided. The lists serve as a guide only and may not be totally inclusive. Each type of powered industrial truck is unique and checklists pertinent to each type of vehicle should be modified accordingly. It is recommended that the manufacturer's instructions on vehicle maintenance and owner's and operator's responsibilities also be consulted. The OSHA standards for powered industrial trucks must be reviewed to ensure compliance.

There are two general types of powered industrial trucks: electric (battery) powered and internal combustion engine (gas/LPG/diesel) powered. Each of these general types has a variety of different configurations and attachments. Your workplace may have a variety of trucks that are being operated. ALL OPERATORS MUST BE TRAINED TO OPERATE ALL TYPE OF INDUSTRIAL TRUCKS THEY WILL BE OPERATING.

Daily, pre-shift inspection of powered industrial trucks is required by OSHA standards.

Depicted below are the major types of industrial trucks and some of the most common variations. The drawings of the trucks depicted below are intended to represent the typical configuration of trucks for each type. They do not include all available options, attachments or configurations.

Electric Motor Powered Industrial Trucks
Standup End Control Rider
Standup End Control Rider
Sitdown Rider
Sitdown Rider
Narrow Aisle Reach
Narrow Aisle Reach
Narrow Aisle High Lift Straddle
Narrow Aisle High Lift Straddle
Narrow Aisle Order Picker
Narrow Aisle Order Picker
Narrow Aisle Sideloader Platform
Narrow Aisle Sideloader Platform
Narrow Aisle Sideloader High Lift Pallet
Narrow Aisle Sideloader High Lift Pallet
Narrow Aisle Turret
Narrow Aisle Turret
Narrow Aisle Low Lift Platform
Narrow Aisle Low Lift Platform
Stacker Pallet
Stacker Pallet
Walkie Platform Low Lift
Walkie Platform Low Lift
Walkie Pallet Low Lift
Walkie Pallet Low Lift
Tractor Walkie/Rider
Tractor Walkie/Rider
Walkie Pallet High Lift
Walkie Pallet High Lift

Internal Combustion Engine Powered Industrial Trucks - Gas/LPG/Diesel
Counterbalanced Forklift Gas/LPG Cushion Tire
Counterbalanced Forklift Gas/LPG Cushion Tire
Counterbalanced Forklift Gas/LPG/Diesel Pneumatic Tire
Counterbalanced Forklift Gas/LPG/Diesel Pneumatic Tire
Tow Tractor Gas/LPG/Diesel
Tow Tractor Gas/LPG/Diesel
Rough Terrain Forklift Gas/LPG/Diesel Vertical Mast
Rough Terrain Forklift Gas/LPG/Diesel Vertical Mast

Daily checklists for each type of industrial truck are available from the truck manufacturer. You may choose to use a checklist for each type of industrial truck in your workplace or compile one that can be used for any type of truck.

Refer to the owner's manual, specifications and manufacturer's recommendations to modify the checklist for trucks being operated in your workplace. Below are sample checklists for internal combustion and electric trucks. These lists can be modified to suit your workplace needs.

Operator's Daily Checklist - Internal Combustion Engine Industrial Truck - Gas/LPG/Diesel Truck

Record of Fuel Added

Date   Operator   Fuel  
Truck#   Model#   Engine Oil  
Department   Serial#   Radiator Coolant  
Shift   Hour Meter   Hydraulic Oil  


Have a qualified mechanic correct all problems.

Engine Off Checks OK Maintenance
Leaks – Fuel, Hydraulic Oil, Engine Oil or Radiator Coolant    
Tires – Condition and Pressure    
Forks, Top Clip Retaining Pin and Heel – Check Condition    
Load Backrest – Securely Attached    
Hydraulic Hoses, Mast Chains, Cables and Stops – Check Visually    
Overhead Guard – Attached    
Finger Guards – Attached    
Propane Tank (LP Gas Truck) – Rust Corrosion, Damage    
Safety Warnings – Attached (Refer to Parts Manual for Location)    
Battery – Check Water/Electrolyte Level and Charge    
All Engine Belts – Check Visually    
Hydraulic Fluid Level – Check Level    
Engine Oil Level – Dipstick    
Transmission Fluid Level – Dipstick    
Engine Air Cleaner – Squeeze Rubber Dirt Trap or Check the Restriction Alarm (if equipped)    
Fuel Sedimentor (Diesel)    
Radiator Coolant – Check Level    
Operator's Manual – In Container    
Nameplate – Attached and Information Matches Model, Serial Number and Attachments    
Seat Belt – Functioning Smoothly    
Hood Latch – Adjusted and Securely Fastened    
Brake Fluid – Check Level    
Engine On Checks – Unusual Noises Must Be Investigated Immediately OK Maintenance
Accelerator or Direction Control Pedal – Functioning Smoothly    
Service Brake – Functioning Smoothly    
Parking Brake – Functioning Smoothly    
Steering Operation – Functioning Smoothly    
Drive Control – Forward/Reverse – Functioning Smoothly    
Tilt Control – Forward and Back – Functioning Smoothly    
Hoist and Lowering Control – Functioning Smoothly    
Attachment Control – Operation    
Horn and Lights – Functioning    
Cab (if equipped) – Heater, Defroster, Wipers – Functioning    
Gauges: Ammeter, Engine Oil Pressure, Hour Meter, Fuel Level, Temperature, Instrument Monitors – Functioning    

Operator's Daily Checklist - Electric Industrial Truck

Record of Fluid Added

Date   Operator   Battery Water  
Truck#   Model#   Hydraulic Oil  
Department   Serial#      
Shift   Drive Hour Meter Reading   Hoist Hour Meter Reading  


Have a qualified mechanic correct all problems.

Motor Off Checks OK Maintenance
Leaks – Hydraulic Oil, Battery    
Tires – Condition and Pressure    
Forks, Top Clip Retaining Pin and Heel -- Condition    
Load Backrest Extension – Attached    
Hydraulic Hoses, Mast Chains, Cables & Stops – Check Visually    
Finger Guards – Attached    
Overhead Guard – Attached    
Safety Warnings – Attached (Refer to Parts Manual for Location)    
Battery – Water/Electrolyte Level and Charge    
Hydraulic Fluid Level – Dipstick    
Transmission Fluid Level – Dipstick    
Operator's Manual in Container    
Capacity Plate Attached – Information Matches Model, Serial Number and Attachments    
Battery Restraint System – Adjust and Fasten    
Operator Protection
Sitdown Truck - Seat Belt – Functioning Smoothly
Man-up Truck – Fall protection/Restraining means - Functioning
Brake Fluid – Check level    
Motor On Checks (Unusual Noises Must Be Investigated Immediately) OK Maintenance
Accelerator Linkage – Functioning Smoothly    
Parking Brake – Functioning Smoothly    
Service Brake – Functioning Smoothly    
Steering Operation – Functioning Smoothly    
Drive Control – Forward/Reverse – Functioning Smoothly    
Tilt Control – Forward and Back – Functioning Smoothly    
Hoist and Lowering Control – Functioning Smoothly    
Attachment Control – Operation    
Horn – Functioning    
Lights & Alarms (where present) – Functioning    
Hour Meter – Functioning    
Battery Discharge Indicator – Functioning    
Instrument Monitors – Functioning    


General Compliance

What is a recommended speed for forklifts operating within a manufacturing facility and warehouse?

OSHA does not have specific speed limits set for the safe operation of a powered industrial truck. However, in determining what is a safe speed, OSHA would take a variety of factors into consideration. These factors include, but are not limited to, the type of truck, the manufacturer's limitations on the truck, the load being carried, adequate stopping distances, operating surface conditions, pedestrian traffic, and other safety issues.

While specific speed limits are not available, OSHA has said it would consider the totality of the circumstances surrounding the operation of the powered industrial truck in determining whether safe travel speeds are practiced at a workplace. For additional assistance in determining safe travel speeds, OSHA says an employer could look to consensus standards such as ASME B56.1 Safety Standard For Low Lift and High Lift Trucks. For example, paragraph 4.3.2 of ASME B56.1 contains a Stopping Distance formula which may be useful in determining approximate theoretical stopping distances where certain variables are known. This information, along with other factors, can then be used to calculate a maximum safe speed.

Otherwise, the OSHA regulation addresses speeds in a few places, in a general manner:
  • 1910.178(n)(1) - All traffic regulations shall be observed, including authorized plant speed limits. A safe distance shall be maintained approximately three truck lengths from the truck ahead, and the truck shall be kept under control at all times.
  • 1910.178(n)(4) - The driver shall be required to slow down and sound the horn at cross aisles and other locations where vision is obstructed. If the load being carried obstructs forward view, the driver shall be required to travel with the load trailing.
  • 1910.178(n)(7) - Grades shall be ascended or descended slowly.
  • 1910.178(n)(8) - Under all travel conditions the truck shall be operated at a speed that will permit it to be brought to a stop in a safe manner.
  • 1910.178(n)(10) - The driver shall be required to slow down for wet and slippery floors.
  • 1910.178(n)(15) - While negotiating turns, speed shall be reduced to a safe level by means of turning the hand steering wheel in a smooth, sweeping motion. Except when maneuvering at a very low speed, the hand steering wheel shall be turned at a moderate, even rate.

Do powered industrial trucks have to have backup alarms or warning lights?

OSHA does not have a requirement that forklift vehicles be equipped with a backup alarm or warning light (although these features are standard on most new equipment).

A forklift must have, at minimum, some type of sound-producing device that an operator can use at cross aisles and blind intersections where vision is obstructed to warn pedestrians and other forklift drivers that they are approaching. The "sound-producing device" mentioned in the Powered Industrial Truck standard is a horn.

However, OSHA cautions that certain operating conditions may require the use of additional warning devices, such as backup alarms. In those cases, the user would be responsible for making that determination and providing the necessary safeguards.

Does OSHA require forklifts to have fire extinguishers?

Federal OSHA does not specifically require employers to equip forklifts with portable fire extinguishers. However, depending on the hazards present in an area where the trucks travel, OSHA may have requirements for fire protection in that specific hazardous location. However, if the manufacturer equips its forklifts with fire extinguishers, the employer must maintain the extinguishers (according to the requirements of 1910.157) and cannot remove/modify the equipment without written permission from the manufacturer. Note: There are various usage options and training requirements in 1910.157 regarding portable fire extinguishers.

Also, the Liquefied Petroleum Gas standard at 1910.110(e)(2) requires that LP-Gas fueled forklifts comply with NFPA 505-1969 Standard for Type Designations, Areas of Use, Maintenance and Operation of Powered Industrial Trucks. Although the 1969 edition does not reference fire extinguishers, the 2006 edition addresses their use in Chapter 9, which states that where either the "authority having jurisdiction" or the end user requires an industrial truck to be equipped with a portable extinguisher, the location of the extinguisher must be in accordance with the truck manufacturer’s recommendation. The NFPA standard also says that industrial trucks can only be equipped with portable extinguishers if operators have been trained in their safe operation and use.

Is there anything in the OSHA standard that references an operator using the blades of a fork truck to push a heavy load with the tips?

If the loads that are being bulldozed result in a hazardous condition because they are not stable or safely arranged, there would be a violation of OSHA’s requirements at §1910.178(o)(1). This work practice is potentially hazardous for the forklift drivers and for any pedestrians who may be in the area. The forklifts also are probably not designed to be used in a bulldozing manner. In addition, §1910.178(l)(3)(i)(M) requires that employees receive training on any operating instructions, warnings, or precautions listed in the operator's manual. If the truck's manual has warnings against these types of practices then this must be included in the training program content.

The manufacturer of our forklift is no longer in business. What do we do about modifications to it?

In a letter of interpretation 04/11/1997 – Powered industrial truck modifications, OSHA stated:" 29 CFR 1910.178(a)(4) requires that 'Modifications and additions which affect the capacity and safe operation shall not be performed by the customer or user without manufacturers prior written approval. Capacity, operation, and maintenance instruction plates, tags, or decals shall be changed accordingly.' In the event that a powered industrial truck manufacturer has been sold to another company and is no longer in business, the user or customer must contact the purchasing company to request approval. In the event that the original powered industrial truck manufacturer is no longer in business and has not been purchased by another entity, the user or customer would be required to contact a Qualified Registered Professional Engineer for approval of such modifications and additions."

Are we required to mark a powered industrial truck before adding front-end attachments?

A front-end attachment would generally be an "addition" within the meaning of §1910.178(a)(4) that affects capacity and safe operation. Section 1910.178(a)(5) assumes that the truck with the attachments will already be, "marked to identify the attachments and show the approximate weight of the truck and attachment combination at maximum elevation with load laterally centered." However, before a non-factory-installed attachment may be used, the employer must comply both with (a)(4), by obtaining the truck manufacturer’s written approval, and with (a)(5), by having the truck appropriately marked.

Does OSHA have any prohibitions against suicide knob on the steering wheel of forklifts?

The OSHA Powered Industrial Truck regulation does not specifically address steering knobs. However, there is an industry standard that Federal OSHA has often referenced: ANSI/ITSDF B56.1. This industry standard provides some fairly detailed information on steering knobs. (In short, the ANSI standard does allow for steering knobs if certain criteria are met, and in some cases steering knobs may even be necessary, for example when steering must be accomplished with one hand. The equipment operating instructions should also be consulted.

When are wheel chocks required?

In most cases, commercial motor vehicles (CMV) are no longer required to chock trailer wheels when parking at loading docks. In an agreement between the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) and OSHA, authority over CMV parking issues belongs to the FMCSA. Consequently, OSHA’s wheel chocking requirements in 29 CFR 1910.178(k)(1) and 1910.178(m)(7) of the Powered Industrial Truck standard no longer apply to commercial motor vehicles. This applies to any vehicle that:
  • Has a gross vehicle weight rating or gross vehicle weight of at least 10,001 pounds, whichever is greater, or
  • Is designed or used to transport more than eight passengers (including the driver) for compensation, or
  • Is designed or used to transport more than 15 passengers, including the driver, and is not used to transport passengers for compensation, or
  • Is used in transporting hazardous material in an amount requiring placarding under DOT regulations.
The FMCSA's parking brake standard, 49 CFR 393.41(a), requires that every commercial motor vehicle manufactured since March 1990 (with the following four exceptions) be equipped with a parking brake system adequate to hold the vehicle or combination under any condition of loading.

However, agricultural commodity trailers, converter dolly, heavy hauler, and pulpwood trailers must carry and use chocking blocks to prevent movement when parked. Section 393.43(d) also requires that the trailer's brakes be applied automatically upon breakaway from the towing vehicle and maintained for at least 15 minutes.

OSHA instructed its regional offices that enforcement personnel are not to cite its wheel chocking requirements at 29 CFR 1910.178(k)(1) or 1910.178(m)(7) with regard to commercial motor vehicles.

Can operators wear headphones while operating a forklift?

Although neither OSHA's occupational noise exposure regulation nor the powered industrial truck standard address the use of headphones in the workplace, OSHA has issued Letters of Interpretations that do not recommend the practice. A major concern for a forklift operator is that the operator will increase the volume of the headphones high enough to drown out workplace noise. This can result in the operator not hearing alarms and shouted warnings, as well as exposing him/herself to noise levels that exceed the OSHA permissible exposure levels.


Are safety platforms attached to the forks of a forklift considered aerial lifts?

A platform attached to the forks of a forklift would not be considered an aerial lift. OSHA considers these to be forklifts with personnel platforms attached. While the OSHA standard does not address using personnel platforms with forklifts, the Agency does require that employers obtain manufacturer’s prior written approval, as this is considered to be an addition/modification affecting capacity and safe operation. In addition, fall protection and other measures must be in place to keep those on personnel platforms safe.


How often does a forklift have to be inspected?

OSHA requires that forklift vehicles have to be inspected at least daily, or after each shift when used around the clock. You will find this requirement in the Powered Industrial Truck standard at 1910.178(q)(7).

How long is an employer required to keep forklift daily inspection sheets?

Federal OSHA requires that forklift vehicles have to be inspected at least daily, or after each shift when used around the clock. You will find this requirement in the Powered Industrial Truck standard at 1910.178(q)(7). OSHA does not require that forklift inspections be documented.
However, using an inspection checklist, either written or electronic, is a good idea for two reasons:
  1. You ensure that all essential features of the vehicle are inspected routinely, and
  2. It provides evidence to an OSHA inspector that the vehicles are being inspected as required by 1910.178(q)(7).
Because daily inspection sheets are not required by OSHA, you should keep them according to whichever system works best in your company. Also, as part of your forklift program, it is a good idea to write a company policy stating something like "We retain forklift inspection sheets for six months." That way, you can keep whatever amount you decide, and it also will be proof to OSHA that your company is inspecting the vehicles (without retaining a huge stack of papers).

Note that some state programs might require retention. For example, in California, the daily inspection log can be considered a record of a scheduled inspection to identify unsafe conditions. In California, such records must be retained for one year under Cal/OSHA regulation §3203(b).

How often does the fire extinguisher on the forklift have to be inspected?

OSHA does not require fire extinguishers on forklifts. However, if they are provided they would fall under 1910.157(e), which requires portable fire extinguishers to be visually inspected monthly and subjected to a maintenance check annually.

Seat Belts

Are there any times when a driver does not have to wear a seatbelt?

OSHA's current policy does not distinguish based on the number of stops. It requires that if seat belts are on the equipment, they must be used at all times while operating.

Must we retrofit our powered industrial trucks with seatbelts if they were not manufactured with them?

Federal OSHA's current enforcement policy on the use of seat belts on forklifts is that employers must require operators of forklifts that are equipped with operator restraint devices, including seat belts, to use the devices. In addition, OSHA may also cite employers who do not take advantage of a manufacturer operator restraint system or seat belt retrofit program. This is all explained in Federal OSHA's 10/09/1996 Seat Belt Policy (corrected in 2007). (Federal OSHA enforces the seat belt issue under the General Duty Clause of the OSH Act; there is not a specific regulation.)