A 31-year old worker died of injuries he sustained after being run over by a front-end loader at a construction site. The loader was equipped with an audible back-up alarm, however it was not working at the time of the incident. On the day of the incident, the loader was being used to transport chunks of broken asphalt and concrete to a rock crushing machine. The operator of the front-end loader was aware that the victim was working near the rock crusher, but didn't realize that he was walking in the area where he was operating the loader. The operator had been driving backwards, down an earthen ramp and across the worksite, when he felt that the heavy equipment had run over something. As he continued to back-up he saw the victim lying near the front of the loader. Another co-worker placed a call to 911 and emergency personnel arrived shortly after being called. The victim was pronounced dead at the site.
OSHA Standard 1926.602(a)(9)(i) All bidirectional machines, such as rollers, compacters, front-end loaders, bulldozers, and similar equipment, shall be equipped with a horn, distinguishable from the surrounding noise level, which shall be operated as needed when the machine is moving in either direction. The horn shall be maintained in an operative condition.
Approximately two weeks prior to the incident the audible back-up warning device on the loader began to malfunction. When the loader was driven in reverse the warning device would make a steady sound rather than its normal intermittent sound. The loader operator stated during an interview immediately after the incident that he disabled the back-up warning device by cutting the alarm's wire. The wire remained cut at the time of the incident.
- Horns and back-up alarms must be installed and working!
- Operators need to inspect their equipment to ensure all safety devices and alarms are functional.
- Earth moving or compacting equipment which has an obstructed view to the rear should not be moved unless the equipment has a back-up alarm or another worker is used as a spotter.
- Employers should ensure that equipment is driven in a forward direction as much as possible.
- Employers should design, develop, and implement a comprehensive safety program.
Use regular safety meetings as a tool to provide reminders to your crews about everything, even the small stuff! The weekly safety meeting is a great time to remind heavy equipment operators to inspect their equipment daily and to test their back-up alarms regularly to ensure they are working properly.