According to the Federal Highway Administration, equipment accidents on worksites cause more than a hundred deaths each year. The administration’s statistics show that between 2005 and 2010, major causes of worksite deaths involving construction equipment included:
- Runovers/backovers – often caused by dump trucks – accounted for 24 percent of worker fatalities on construction sites.
- Vehicle/equipment collisions and caught between/struck by construction equipment and objects each caused 14 percent of worksite deaths during that period.
How can we avoid this type of accident? How can we protect employees? Two words: equipment spotters. Use a spotter when you are backing a vehicle or piece of machinery, or when you are entering and/or moving a vehicle or machinery in a congested area. Use a spotter when visibility is poor and pedestrians or co-workers are in the area. Use a spotter to alert you to equipment obscured from your view.
Take precautions to protect your spotters. OSHA recommends implementing the following actions to keep them safe:
- Ensure spotters and drivers agree on hand signals before you begin backing a vehicle or piece of machinery.
- Instruct spotters to maintain visual contact with the driver while the driver is backing the vehicle.
- Instruct drivers to stop backing immediately if they lose sight of the spotter.
- Do not give spotters additional duties while they are acting as spotters.
- Instruct spotters not to use personal mobile phones, headphones or other items that could pose a distraction during spotting activities.
- Provide spotters with high-visibility clothing, especially during night operations.
Follow these simple guidelines to protect yourself when working in an area with moving vehicles or equipment:
- Stay alert.
- Don’t get distracted.
- Stay a safe distance from machinery.
- Keep off the equipment unless authorized.
- Watch for shifting or unstable loads.
- Wear high-visibility clothing.