Every year in this country, approximately 800 construction workers die as a result of on-the-job accidents. Many more are severely injured.
Our Atlanta work accident attorneys know that being struck by vehicles, heavy equipment and other objects is the No. 1 cause of injuries and the No. 2 cause of death for construction workers, resulting in approximately 150 deaths in 2009, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.
Back-over incidents are when a vehicle that is backing up strikes a worker who is standing, walking, kneeling or sitting behind the vehicle.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that in 2011, some 70 workers were killed in back-over incidents. Every single one of these deaths were 100 percent preventable, though errors occurred at different points in the incident.
Some of the recent examples include:
- In June of 2010, a worker was standing in front of a loading dock. The worker was facing the building as a tractor-trailer was backing up into that same dock. The trailer driver backed into the worker and crushed him between the dock and the back of the trailer.
- Almost exactly one year earlier, a construction worker wearing a reflective safety vest was inside a highway work zone when he was fatally struck by the rear passenger-side wheels of a dump truck that was backing up. The truck was equipped with an audible alarm and operating safety lights.
It's not a coincidence that these incidents happened in the summer. The warmer months are when many construction projects kick into high gear, even in the southern states.
As the economy has picked up the pace, we expect to see more construction projects - and more workers on the job - which can lead to more back-over accidents if job supervisors and drivers aren't cautious.
There are many reasons why a back-over might occur. In some cases, drivers may not be able to see the employee - even with a reflective vest - if he or she is positioned in the driver's blind spot. The exact location of that blind spot can vary depending on the type of vehicle.
Large construction vehicles should be equipped with audio alarms and safety lights, which can alert workers to possible danger. However, too often those safety features aren't functional. In other cases, workers might not be able to hear those alarms because of the high volume of other surrounding noises at the work site.
It's also been known to happen where a worker is riding on the back of the vehicle and falls off, leaving him or her vulnerable to a back-over. Other times, drivers unfortunately make an assumption that no one is behind them and fail to simply take a look in the direction of travel to make sure.
Due to the sheer size of construction-grade vehicles, workers who are struck often suffer severe injuries, if not death.
Because of the potential for grave injuries, job supervisors must have the foresight to take preventative action.
One of the first solutions is to require all drivers on a job site to employ a spotter any time they are backing up a vehicle.
Additionally, vehicles can be affixed with display monitors inside that could help them see what is behind them. Some vehicles also come equipped with sonar detection devices, so that drivers are alerted to objects behind them.
Planning can also help. On certain work sites, employers may have the option of establishing internal traffic control protocol, indicating where drivers can operate and stressing the need for speed reduction when backing up.
Training too is important. Workers on foot may not immediately recognize when they are in a driver's blind spot. Training workers on vehicle blind spots and how to avoid them can help prevent many of these incidents.
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