Occupational Safety: Buck Routine and Postpone the Last Roundup

Feb. 16, 2012
I tend to blog a lot about safety, particularly where lift trucks are concerned. Now, I don't operate a lift truck as part of my job, so it's easy for me to preach about the need for proper safety training. But here I sit at this keyboard with my left ...

I tend to blog a lot about safety, particularly where lift trucks are concerned. Now, I don't operate a lift truck as part of my job, so it's easy for me to preach about the need for proper safety training. But here I sit at this keyboard with my left foot propped up on a pillow, encased in a cast.

I broke my ankle the other morning while jogging. I'm lucky. This blog could have been about me dying from hypothermia—as detailed by one of my colleagues here at MH&L. But thanks to providence or dumb luck, you're reading a first-person account of my stupidity.

It was 5 am on that cold, frosty morning and my daily five-mile jog was almost complete. The last quarter mile of my route took me through an unlit section of our community's Elmwood Park parking lot. A second after my left foot transferred from snowy traction to an icy skid, I was on the ground and my left foot was pointing in a rather uncomfortable direction.

You would expect that someone who preaches about safety would reach for his cell phone and call 911 the moment he came to his senses. Except I wasn't carrying a cell phone and at that hour of the morning nobody was around to hear my calls for help. The reason you're hearing this from me first-hand instead of from a saddened but slightly amused colleague is that my park has 911 call boxes strategically placed throughout the area and all I had to do was crawl 500 ft on my hands and knees to reach the nearest one.

I don't know if there were security cameras recording my crawl or if there's a 911 audio transcript of my call, but I'd pay to recover them. Not to destroy them out of embarrassment, but to build them into a jogger's safety training seminar. Rule number one: carry a @#$% cell phone!

I routed you through this tale to make a point:

Don't be stupid about safety, whether it pertains to jogging or operating lift trucks. Sometimes it takes a brush with mortality like this to shake you from your routine.

You can read about thousands of people who weren't so lucky when fate broke into their daily routines. Last year the 49-year-old owner of the Thousand Oaks, Calif.-based JumboScreen Co. was crushed when a 1,500 pound-monitor fell from a lift truck on top of him. He was disassembling equipment used for the Santa Barbara Old Spanish Days Stock Horse Show & Rodeo at the Earl Warren Showgrounds. I'm sure this was a chore he performed many times under similar circumstances. The account describing this accident doesn't say anything about cause, but it did say Cal/OSHA was looking into it.

Suffice it to say that when our daily activities become routines, we don't give them the thought they deserve. If I had thought about it before heading out the door the other morning I would have realized a cell phone could be a life saver on a desolate icy morning. Who knows, if that California business owner had taken things a bit slower and more deliberately when he came near that lift truck that day he might still be with us.

Why did I use his case from among the thousands of lift truck accidents that happen every day? The fact it happened at a rodeo and I just happened to receive a press release from Cat Lift trucks promoting their role at the next Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo from February 28th to March 18th. At this particular rodeo lift truck safety is far from routine. The site of the event is Houston's Reliant Park. The setup and tear down of this event entails the transportation of hundreds of pounds of livestock feed, steel and lumber throughout the complex during the Show.

Since 2005, Cat Lift Trucks and its local dealer, Adobe Equipment Houston LLC (Adobe Equipment), have been helping show management attend to its material handling routines.

One of those is matching lift trucks to the appropriate applications. Those jobs can range from heavy loads, such as moving bucking chutes and stage platforms, to smaller loads, like hauling merchandise and food.

After reading about that, I was curious if lift truck safety was a problem at rodeos. A Google search took me to that Santa Barbara event.

At the Houston event, the dealer offers three training classes on-site every year to reinforce proper lift truck operating techniques. All lift truck users are required to complete the classes before they begin operating the lift trucks, regardless of previous experience. The classes essentially serve as a guided tour of lift trucks and all their functions, with instructors answering any specific questions along the way.

These lift truck operators are not allowed to turn their jobs into routines. Remember that next time you head out the door to go for a jog, start your car or begin your day-job. It could save your life.

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Photo by David Adams U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Baltimore District
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