A Fall with Consequences

Elevator Technology operates a modern plant with high safety precautions in Pune, India. Nevertheless, an accident occurred when the driver of an external transport company fell from the roof of a truck during loading. Part 3 in our series on safety at work.

At the Elevator plant in Pune, India, the end of the shift is imminent. A truck has just arrived at the logistics station and is to load pallets with electrical components for elevators at Dock no. 1. The process runs quickly and smoothly, and after a short time the truck driver can begin to close the truck compartment and cover it with a tarpaulin. To attach it, he climbs onto the roof of the vehicle from the back. At this time, the factory is almost deserted, the workforce in its well-earned evening. While the driver pulls the tarpaulin and tries to tighten it, he suddenly loses his balance and falls from the truck to the loading platform and from there to the ground. He injures his head and right leg.

His luck: Security personnel deputed at dock location noticed the injured man and immediately report the accident to the security centre. This in turn calls the company's own ambulance, while the security guards help the injured driver. Two of them eventually accompany him to the nearest hospital, where he receives medical care.

"We were all shocked by the disaster," says S.Sundar, head of the warehouse and logistics department at the Pune plant. Until then, there had never been an accident at the factory. The plant went into operation in May 2017 and the safety regulations and precautions are state-of-the-art, says Sundar. Except at the logistics station. At the time, there had been an analysis of the dangers that could occur during loading and unloading and especially when working on the roof of a truck. But measures that could protect against an accident had not yet been implemented.

Immediately after the accident, Mr. S. Baskaran- Sr. V.P. (Manufacturing Head) has initiated an investigation which revealed several shortcomings, first of all the lack of a safety system for working at heights at dock area and indications of the hazard potential or safety measures. In addition to optimizing the process, the provision of suitable tools is also part of this.

Mr. Kailasnath Uthale, the manager responsible for occupational safety, says: "Our work culture is already very much geared to safety and health through continual improvement in safety systems. But we have to keep the attention high again and again." To this end, safety meetings are held once a month with all employees.

"We make it clear to them that safety at work is paramount and that no situation justifies ignoring safety regulations”.

What's improved since the accident?

After the accident, the plant management quickly took a whole series of measures to increase the safety of the external transporters. The most important was the installation of a safety system for working at great heights. This is to prevent the workers falling from the roof of the truck. Anyone who nevertheless goes onto the roof of a truck is roped up with a belt that prevents him from falling onto the ground. At the same time, signs now indicate the use of the belt. Elevator's transport supervisors received intensive training on the Dos and Don'ts when working on a truck roof. The external transport companies were also invited and informed about the safety precautions and the consequences if these are not observed. Finally, a uniform process for working at height was developed.

What lessons can we learn from the accident?

Working at height, whether on the roof of a truck, in an elevator shaft or on scaffolding, always involves a high risk of accidents. Above all, the consequences of an accident can be considerable.

Everyone should therefore take the time to take the prescribed safety measures – even if the use of the safety system prolongs the working time for the task.

We at thyssenkrupp are also responsible for the safety of external employees who comes to our plants, for example suppliers or transport drivers. This means that we provide safe workplaces, instruct them on safety precautions and ensure that they are observed.

If you have any questions about the case described here, please get in touch – you can send detailed questions to wecare@thyssenkrupp.com. We will then do our best to answer them in consultation with the responsible colleagues. We ask for your understanding that we cannot name the responsible colleagues directly here. These stories do not always end without casualties and those involved should be allowed to decide for themselves how and when they want to report on these events.