You see them everywhere—trucks with long, extended arms, with a worker in a “bucket” that sits about waist-high. Good, honest workers are doing their jobs working on things we take for granted—utility lines, overgrown trees, and billboards, to name a few.
However, you might not know how dangerous these “bucket trucks” are for the workers. Workers are often 20 to 100 feet off the ground, working mere feet from power lines. The risks are significant.
A Rose by Any Other Name
Perhaps you know bucket trucks as cherry pickers, boom trucks, or basket cranes. Whatever you call them, these trucks are responsible for severe and often fatal injuries. Statistics for fatalities are combined with all “aerial lift” (meaning scissor lifts and similar equipment) numbers, but about 70 percent of all such deaths result from bucket trucks. Of the workers who die using bucket trucks, about 25 percent are electricians, 15 percent are construction workers, and 13 percent are electrical power installers and repair persons. Tree trimmers also experience a significant risk of serious injury or death, often from falls.
A bucket truck is simply a small-to-medium truck with an extendable pole with a bucket or basket attached. This bucket-and-pole combination is usually known as the boom. Powered by an electric motor, the hydraulic boom can be controlled from two different locations, both inside the bucket itself and by using a panel in the truck. One factor that makes bucket trucks safer these days is that newer trucks can supply power to the boom without running the truck’s engine, meaning that you don’t have to worry about the truck’s moving accidentally.
Buckets of Uses for Bucket Trucks
The booms on bucket trucks can go over 100 feet high in order to tackle a variety of jobs. Bucket trucks are used by both private businesses and governments on a regular basis:
- Utility line work, usually meaning telephone, cable, and electrical
- Commercial roofing
- Construction of various kinds
- Trimming trees
- Commercial window-washing and maintenance
Bucket Truck Injuries and Fatalities
The height of the boom and the frequent proximity to live power lines means that the danger of severe injury and death is ever-present. Most bucket truck accidents arise from:
- Electrocution from direct bodily contact with power lines. The booms themselves are insulated to prevent electrocution to the person inside the bucket, should the boom or bucket touch a line.
- Falling or being pulled out of the bucket, often from hydraulic power failures that cause the bucket to lose control and drop abruptly.
- Overturned bucket trucks. The high center of gravity makes the trucks vulnerable to tipping.
- Road accidents with other vehicles.
In May of 2014, an incident in Hemingway, South Carolina, seriously injured one worker. The man working on a power line from a bucket was “hit by a large fireball,” according to witnesses. Because he was wearing a harness, the shock did not throw him out of the bucket, which might have been fatal. In nearby Georgia during 2012, one man was killed and another suffered serious injuries when their bucket truck tilted and flipped over.
These are only two of the many such accidents that regularly occur with bucket trucks.
Ways to Work More Safely
For reasons beyond their control, workers may not always be able to take all the safety precautions that will protect them. However, whenever possible, it’s wise to heed the safety recommendations from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA):
- Never override safety devices or procedures.
- Never position yourself between overhead obstacles and the bucket’s rails, so as to avoid crushing injuries.
- Always keep at least 10 feet away from live power lines, wires, or conductors.
- Always use harnesses or restraints so that you aren’t pulled or ejected from the bucket.
- Always use outriggers, if they are provided.
- Always set the truck’s brakes, and use wheel chocks on an incline.
- If there are workers in the bucket, never move or drive the truck.
Securing Justice for Hardworking People and Families Since 1959
Negligence can sometimes be reasonable cause for a lawsuit if a bucket truck is improperly maintained or safety standards are not adhered to and someone sustains injury or death. All South Carolina employers and businesses are required to prevent employees from being harmed, even in risky occupations. Additionally, the companies that manufacture bucket trucks are legally required to ensure their machines are free from defect. And yet, sometimes workers suffer injury or death.
At the Louthian Law Firm, we have practiced personal injury law for over 55 years and have won significant damages for seriously injured victims of on-the-job accidents. And because we know injured workers’ wallets are often stretched thin, we always offer free, confidential consultations to potential clients. To speak with an experienced South Carolina bucket truck accident attorney today, call us toll free at (803) 454-1200, or fill out our convenient online case evaluation form. Louthian Law Firm. Seeking truth. Securing justice.