St. Paul Travelers Unveils Results from Study on Equipment Rental Industry Mishaps

July 29, 2004

Accidents involving rented items such as lifts, forklifts, trailers, tents and chairs posed the greatest risks for consumers and were associated with the highest numbers of fatalities, injuries and damages in the equipment rental industry, according to the findings of a St. Paul Travelers study.

The study – Renting Dangerously: Injuries, fatalities and losses in the equipment rental industry – spotlights the types of rental equipment and operations that pose the greatest risks to consumers. The study examined more than 3,500 incidents involving rental equipment occurring between 1996-2002.

“Most people are unaware of the risks involved in renting equipment,” Bob Brody, senior vice president of Risk Control for St. Paul Travelers, said. “Anyone can go into a rental dealer and rent equipment that can be dangerous if misused. Most of the injuries and fatalities we’ve seen have been the result of consumer and operator error. Without proper information and training provided by the rental dealer, equipment rental can lead to serious and deadly consequences.”

Among the study’s key findings:

* Accidents associated with rental lifts were the leading cause of fatalities. Five of the 18 rental-equipment related fatalities were attributed to personnel lifts. Of those fatalities, four involved power line contact.
* Personnel lifts also ranked No. 1 in severity, meaning lift accidents accounted for the highest costs of rental equipment insurance claims. Lifts have held this top severity ranking for the last 20 years.
* Forklifts were responsible for four fatalities, with operator error being a factor in all four of these incidents. Bystanders accounted for three of the four forklift fatalities.
* Trailers ranked No. 1 in total number of rental equipment claims and No. 3 in total claim costs. These incidents were most often attributed to errors made by consumers and rental employees while attaching the trailers to vehicles or transporting loads not properly secured. * Many trailers became disconnected from their towing vehicles, causing damage to other vehicles and injuring bystanders.
* Damages and injuries related to tent rentals ranked as No. 4 in terms of severity. While the preferred method of anchoring tents is to use stakes, in many cases accidents occurred when consumers or rental employees improperly used the tent stakes, either by making contact with utilities or improperly securing the stakes and tie lines. In general, improper setups and takedowns were responsible for more than half of the tent-related incidents.

“Rental equipment establishments should provide adequate training and safety information to consumers before renting to them,” Brody said. “As an insurance company, we’re always looking for ways to promote safety and minimize risk. Our first line of defense in preventing these injuries and fatalities is to work with rental dealers to ensure that consumers are trained properly and are provided with information and resources that clearly explain how to use rental equipment safely.”

Brody advises dealers to give their consumers well-documented operating instructions and to include large cautionary labels on rental equipment. Dealers should also inspect and service all rental equipment prior to each rental to ensure the equipment is in proper working condition. Whenever possible, old and out-of-date equipment should be replaced with new equipment that includes the latest industry safeguards. By taking a few simple precautions, rental dealers can reportedly mitigate risk and improve safety.

Jim Bankson, executive vice president for USI Rental Specialties, Inc., a national program insuring rental dealers, agreed that dealers play an important role in minimizing risks for consumers.

“Rental dealers want to do everything possible to protect the safety of their customers,” Bankson said. “The many dealers who require their employees to review important safety information and instructions with customers are showing a genuine commitment to putting customer safety first.”

Complete results of the study, “Renting Dangerously: Fatalities, Injuries and Losses in the Equipment Rental Industry,” can be found on St. Paul Travelers’ Web site at

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