Working construction is among the most dangerous occupations in America with Massachusetts being no safer than other states. Workers are constantly exposed to negligent conduct by subcontractors operating heavy equipment, by falling objects, a failure to install guardrails and other safety measures, lack of proper training, and absence of proper signage among other safeguards that can minimize or even eliminate many risks.
One of the most dangerous practices on a construction site is when a piece of heavy equipment backs up and pins a worker or even a pedestrian between it and another object. According to some surveys, nearly 30% of all construction accidents are caused by vehicles and other heavy equipment backing up into a worker. Hundreds of workers and pedestrians are killed each year in such accidents and thousands injured, many of whom are permanently disabled.
Equipment that is often involved in backing up accidents include:
- Front loaders
- Cement mixers
- Dump trucks
- Cement mixers
However, dump trucks are the usual culprit in these types of accidents. These can cause catastrophic injuries including broken limbs, crush injuries, traumatic brain injuries, paralysis, amputations, and death.
Factors that Cause Equipment Backing Accidents
There are a number of factors that are instrumental in causing these often-tragic accidents:
- Lack of proper training—unfortunately, many heavy equipment operators are poorly trained in recognizing blind spots and what cautionary measures to take.
- Lack of proper communication—workers should be trained in using hand signals or other systems of communication to minimize risks..
- Substantial noise on the site—construction sites can be very noisy and some workers may wear earplugs. This would negate the use of backup alarms.
- Impaired workers—too often, workers arrive on the site impaired by drugs or alcohol or hung over from the previous night’s excesses.
- Distractions–use of cellphones on the site cause dangerous distractions.
Measures to Prevent Equipment Backup Accidents
There are commonsense steps as well as technology that if properly utilized can prevent many of these and other types of construction accidents.
- Proper training for heavy equipment operators like dump truck drivers can likely eliminate many accidents. For example, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health publishes on its website blind spot diagrams that operators can readily review and learn where blind spots are situated. Spending a certain number of hours training on specific equipment should be required before the driver is allowed to operate the equipment.
- Each contractor, owner or developer should consider implementing an ITCP or Internal Traffic Control Plan whenever heavy equipment is being used. This includes marking the areas where the equipment will be operating and limiting those areas to those workers needed there.
- Zones where this equipment is being used can be cordoned off with conspicuous signage warning those to stay clear.
- Rear-view cameras are standard on many passenger vehicles that can and should be installed on cranes, dump trucks, pavers, mixers and other construction vehicles.
- Spotters or flaggers can be invaluable where equipment is being backed up so that no person or passenger vehicle if on a city street comes too close.
- Current technology offers sensors and ultrasonic devices that alert drivers to objects and persons in their path. Some devices will automatically stop a vehicle once it senses a hazard. The failure of a contractor or subcontractor to install these available devices could be proof of negligence in the event of an accident.
- Despite significant noise on a site, backup alarms should be installed on equipment that must be loud enough so that anyone can hear it.
There is also PWDs or personal wearable devices that sends a signal to a worker that he is too close to a moving vehicle. SmartZone Proximity Systems can also warn operators that someone is too close.
Liability for Accidents
If you or a loved one was injured or killed on a construction site by being pinned by heavy equipment, immediately contact a personal injury attorney from Burns and Jain. Our attorneys will seek compensation for any negligent conduct by:
- Contractors and subcontractors
- Property owner
- Equipment operator
- Equipment manufacturers for defective design or manufacture
- Service companies that failed to maintain equipment that resulted in faulty brakes, steering, or the failure of a safety device to operate
Injured workers are entitled to workers compensation benefits regardless of fault but in many instances, parties other than their employers can be found liable and forced to pay damages. A personal injury attorney representing workers injured or killed by parties other than their employers or pedestrians who were injured or their families if the victim suffered fatal injuries can explore the liability of these parties and obtain compensation that can often be in the millions of dollars.
Retain a Personal Injury Attorned from the Law Office of Burns and Jain
Construction accident claims present difficult and complex issues of liability and damages. Many companies retain high-priced law firms that will aggressively defend these companies. By retaining a highly experienced personal injury attorney from Burns and Jain, you can be confident that your claim will be handled professionally and with all due regard for your well-being and satisfaction. Call us today for a free consultation about your injury claim at (617) 227-7423.