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Bucket Truck Incident is a Fall Protection Reminder


Bucket trucks, sometimes called cherry pickers, are an excellent tool used in many industries. Bucket trucks provide a safe and stable work platform in a variety of situations when used in accordance with specific recommendations from the manufacturers.

OSHA Standard 1926.21(b)(2) says that the employer shall instruct each employee in the recognition and avoidance of unsafe conditions and the regulations applicable to his work environment to control or eliminate any hazards or other exposure to illness or injury.

It is important to note that all bucket trucks come with specific manufacturer operator manuals for the particular model and type of bucket truck. If the operator manual is not available, the bucket truck should not be used!


A 39-year old highway traffic technician, working alone, received fatal head injuries after falling out of the bucket of an aerial boom truck. He was changing a traffic bulb in a traffic signal suspended over 2 lanes of traffic. As he worked form the aerial lift suspended over traffic to change the burned out bulb, a cargo truck drove underneath the bucket, striking it, and causing him to fall to the asphalt below. He did not survive his injuries.

Read more >>  NIOSH Kentucky Case Report 03KY028

This photo depicts the attachment of the boom to the bucket and the eye hook for the harness attachment.
This photo depicts the attachment of the boom to the bucket and the eye hook for the harness attachment.
Photo of the dent caused by the cargo truck hitting the bucket with the traffic technician in it.
Photo of the dent caused by the cargo truck hitting the bucket with the traffic technician in it.

The traffic technician had 11 years of experience with this employer and had worked on the signal crew for over 5 years at the time of his death. During this time, the technician had completed 55 safety courses including courses on PPE, aerial lift safety, fall protection and highway work zone safety. Personal protective equipment was provided to employees and the technician had been trained by the manufacturer of the aerial lift boom truck on the operation and safety features of the truck he was operating. The manufacturer supplied two safety harnesses with the truck.

None of the witnesses remembered the technician wearing a safety harness at the time of the incident. No cones had been placed around the truck to warn motorists of a highway work zone and no signs had been set along the highway to warn motorists they should proceed with caution.

Since this incident, standard operation procedures for working on traffic signals have been modified by the employer. When feasible, workers now work in pairs and traffic is diverted to another lane so the worker can work over an empty lane; not over moving traffic.

Recommendations provided after this incident investigation include:

  • Employees should use personal fall protection equipment in an aerial lift bucket at all times.
  • A competent person should conduct a hazard assessment of the highway work zone and implement a safety plan.

To read more about this incident, please review the investigation report: NIOSH Kentucky Case Report 03KY028

In addition to ensuring a written safety program is in place, and implemented, and proper safety and fall protection procedures are followed on every job, there should be regular safety meetings held to ensure all employees are reminded of safe practices when it comes to fall protection and work zone safety.

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