by John J. Grey

Fastener Consulting Services

(440) 243.8549

Electric Power Company 
Vehicle Maintenance Department 

Bolts broke on the lower connecting arm of a boom lift truck. An employee was close to 30 feet (9.1m) in the air, working in the lift bucket. The boom crashed to the ground. 

The employee sustained a compound fractured arm, multiple cuts and bruises.

The truck fastener failure resulted in several thousand dollars in damages to the truck, boom, and lift bucket. There were additional losses to the company in man-hours by the employee and crew.

Initial visual examination of the truck's failed fasteners indicated a size, grade, and type normal to this application. The identification marks of the manufacturers were consistent with those believed to provide reputable products. The remaining portions of the threads were noticeably elongated, and the fracture surface was smeared, typical of a shear. No corrosion was apparent. 

Independent lab tests showed the fasteners normal as to chemical, physical, and dimensions (except for the fracture area). However, interviews with the maintenance foreman and his people, coupled with a review of their latest preventative maintenance manual, revealed a startling practice. It read, "In order to assure fasteners are secured properly, tighten the bolt head or nut one quarter (1/4) turn at each vehicle safety servicing, every three months." 

If a fastener was found loose at the scheduled maintenance interval, tightening it one quarter (1/4) may or may not make it properly tight. In the more probable situation of finding a tight fastener, over tightening it every three months will elongate and weaken the threads, thus setting up this opportunity for failure by overload. 

1. We developed a fastener maintenance program addressing each nut and bolt by specific strength, diameter, thread pitch, and finish. Each joint connection was then charted, linking proper tools with the tightening requirements, thus facilitating the process.

2. Fastener training classes were then held for all maintenance personnel. 

As appeared in Fastener Technology International magazine. 

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