Washington FACE: Orchard Laborer Falls from Aerial Lift

Photo of shade cloth system.

The laborer, who was not using fall protection, fell 17 feet from the elevated aerial lift
basket. He was maintaining the shade cloth system (shown here) in his employer’s orchard.

Fatality Narrative

Industry: Orchard

Release Date: July 27, 2016

Task: Maintaining shade cloth system Incident Date: May 6, 2015
Occupation: Orchard laborer Case No.:
Type of Incident: Fall from aerial lift SHARP Report No.: 71-148-2016

shade cloth system.

The laborer, who was not using fall protection, fell 17 feet
from the elevated aerial lift basket. He was maintaining the
shade cloth system (shown here) in his employer’s orchard.

On May 6, 2015, a 29-year-old orchard laborer fell from the elevated basket of an aerial lift and suffered a serious head injury.

The laborer had five years’ experience working in orchards, two of which were with at his employer’s orchard. He had received safety training relating to his job duties from his employer.

During the growing season, his full-time duties included maintaining the orchard shade cloth system. Horizontal cable wires 17 to 20 feet high supported by poles allowed cloth to be rolled out like a curtain to provide shade for trees. He and other employees worked to extend and roll up the shade cloth as well as maintain the cable system that supports the cloth.

On the day of the incident, the laborer was using a three-wheeled aerial lift to access the shade cloth system in order to roll out the cloth. He was working from the lift’s elevated basket. He had previously operated this type of lift. He was not using a fall protection harness with a lanyard attached to the basket. As he was manually moving the shade cloth, the supporting cable wire snapped and knocked him out of the basket. He fell 17 feet from the basket to the ground. He was knocked unconscious and taken to a hospital where he was diagnosed with a skull fracture and a traumatic brain injury. He suffered numerous complications related to his injury and was still unable to return to work more than a year later.


  • The manufacturer’s instructional manual, if any, must be used to establish the proper operational sequences and maintenance procedures. If there is no manual, you must develop instructions. The instructions must be available for reference by operators. See WAC 296-307-10005(1).

  • Only employees qualified by training or experience may operate aerial manlifts. See WAC 296-307-018(6).


Ensure that all persons on the platform of boom supported elevating work platforms wear a body belt or full body harness and lanyard fixed to the manufacturer provided and approved attachment points to prevent workers from being ejected from the platform or in the event that they do fall from the platform their fall will be arrested.

  • Choose the appropriate fall protection system based on the manufacturer’s specification or, if this is not available, on the type of elevating work platform to be used and the work activity.
  • A personal fall restraint system will prevent persons on the elevating work platform from falling any distance. A fall restraint system should be preferred over a fall arrest system whenever possible.
  • A fall arrest system should allow workers to move around the platform but provide a minimum of lanyard slack.
>Orchard worker using fall protection (full body harness with lanyard)

Orchard worker using fall protection (full body harness with lanyard)
while working from a powered platform to maintain an orchard shade cloth system.

Statewide Statistics:

This was number 61 of 73 work-related fatalities in Washington State during 2014, and was number 6 of 6 agriculture-related fatalities.

This bulletin was developed to alert employers and employees of a tragic loss of life of a worker in Washington State and is based on preliminary data ONLY and does not represent final determinations regarding the nature of the incident or conclusions regarding the cause of the fatality.

Developed by Washington State Fatality Assessment and Control Evaluation (FACE) Program and the Division of Occupational Safety and Health (DOSH), Washington State Dept. of Labor & Industries. The FACE Program is supported in part by a grant from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH grant# 5 U60 OH008487-09). For more information, contact the Safety and Health Assessment and Research for Prevention (SHARP) Program, 1-888-667-4277.

face logo logo

Washington state department of labor and indursties logo and Washington FACE report logo

Publication #: 71-148-2016| July 27, 2016

Disclaimer and Reproduction Information: Information in NASD does not represent NIOSH policy. Information included in NASD appears by permission of the author and/or copyright holder. More