Construction vehicles which pose a risk for back-over incidents include pick-up trucks, workers’ private vehicles, dump trucks, ready-mix concrete trucks, tractor trailers, heavy equipment such as loaders, backhoes and bulldozers, aerial lifts, scissor lifts, cranes, and road grinding / paving equipment, among others.
Civil Engineer & Construction Safety Expert, Greg Pestine, P.E., approaches the topic by highlighting the standards for construction safety intended to prevent workers and pedestrians from being struck by construction vehicles.
Construction Vehicle Back-Overs – Expert Overview
Back-up alarms may be the most recognized solution for protecting workers from construction vehicle traffic, and they do figure prominently in our casework, but alarms are just one component of back-over incident prevention. Construction sites are dynamic environments that often have workers wearing hearing protection working alongside a variety of vehicles and loud equipment. Given the complex nature of this environment, forensic investigations of construction site injuries must consider all factors that may have contributed to an incident.
Training is a crucial component of construction safety and is necessary not only for the technical operation of equipment, but to establish operating rules for the site and to ensure that workers appreciate the consequences of potential hazards. Our investigations include determining which party has the responsibility, or which parties share in the responsibilities, for providing reasonable protections for the injured worker. Those responsibilities include ensuring that workers on the site meet minimum requirements for safety and that applicable regulations and standards are being followed. As a result, most construction injury cases are investigated by civil engineers with deep and broad experience in construction site supervision.
CONSTRUCTION VEHICLE STRIKES
Three of the safety methods commonly used to protect workers from vehicle impacts are outlined below. The scope of the project, site conditions, and equipment being used will inform your expert as to which method or methods are most appropriate to your case.
- Use of Spotter(s) – Employing spotters with clear communication channels and adequate visual coverage is common in the operation of large vehicles and equipment.
- Safety Walk – In some instances it may be required for a vehicle operator to exit and walk around their vehicle to ensure the area is clear before proceeding. This safety walk must be performed immediately prior to movement.
- Look Behind – For small equipment, including track and skid steers, a key safety step can be for operators to maintain a vigilant lookout and to keep bystanders clear from their path of travel.
Case Example: Worker Struck by Skid Steer
The plaintiff in this case was using a laser level to mark grade cuts and fills when he was impacted by a skid-steer loader driving in reverse. The process of using a laser level requires concerted attention to audible tones that indicate relative elevation points, which may have prevented the plaintiff from recognizing and responding to the backup alarm of the skid-steer. In this instance the skid-steer operator relied upon the backup alarm to notify workers of his approach and neglected to look backward to confirm that conditions were safe to proceed. The incident could have been prevented had the skid-steer operator received proper training and had looked in the direction of travel to keep workers clear from danger.
Protecting the Public from Construction Hazards
To investigate construction mishaps that occur in areas accessible or proximate to the public, your expert will need to understand what precautions were taken to safeguard the public. Typical areas of interest include how/if hazardous areas were guarded, if safe alternate pedestrian routes were provided, and if the work area was consistently monitored by spotters and/or security.
The adequacy of spotters throughout the work site is a potential area of interest, particularly for incidents that occur near access points, established vehicle routes, and around the operation of large equipment. The use of spotters is important for construction safety because visibility is often limited from the operating position of large equipment, and it is impractical for the operator to maintain a full 360-degree awareness while also focusing on the task at hand.
Communication between the spotter(s) and vehicle operator(s) is critical. Investigators may want to understand the technology and processes used for communication and the relevant training that was provided. Communication breakdowns, inadequate or improperly placed spotters, or a lack of vigilance are all common causes of vehicle-pedestrian strikes in construction work zones.
Case Example: Patient Struck by Dump Truck
In this case, a plaintiff was struck by a dump truck while crossing the parking lot outside of his physician’s office. The construction crew performing surface repairs provided a spotter but failed to adequately monitor the work zone. In this instance, the spotter signaled the driver to move forward, causing the vehicle to impact the pedestrian. This incident could have been prevented by providing an alternate temporary walkway, ensuring the spotter was properly located, or by supplementing the spotter with a flagger to guard pedestrians.
INVESTIGATING INJURIES IN CONSTRUCTION WORK ZONES
Construction vehicle strikes are just one of a multitude of ways that injuries occur on construction sites. Such a complex and everchanging environment with multiple trades working in close proximity using all manner of equipment and vehicles is rife with hazards. The Construction Safety experts at Robson Forensic have worked at every level within the industry and have done the work central to your case. They are typically licensed professional engineers in your state and have the technical knowledge to analyze the conditions and actions which were causes of construction incidents.
For more information, submit an inquiry or contact the author of this article.
Civil Engineer & Construction Safety Expert
With over 40 years of experience in the construction industry, Greg has worked on a wide variety of projects, in many different roles. His hands-on building experience includes industrial, military, assisted living, educational, theater, convention center, and residential projects. He has overseen construction on many transportation projects including roads, bridges, airports, waterways, rapid transit stations, and commuter rail facilities. Greg is a registered Professional Engineer in multiple states.