September 10, 2018 | Susan Napier-Sewell

Monday Accidents & Lessons Learned: Ensure Safety Behind the Wheel

In June 2018, a Queensland owner/operator truck driver was reversing his single-deck truck up to a ramp to load cattle used in a rodeo. It appears he placed the truck in reverse and began to idle backwards. The gearing of the truck in reverse was sufficiently low that it did not require the driver to have his foot on the accelerator. He then opened the door and stood on the running board of the truck holding onto the steering wheel to maneuver the truck while looking backward to where he was going. He fell from the running board of the truck and was fatally crushed under the front wheel as the truck continued to reverse itself.

Also, in June 2018, a courier van driver sustained serious fractures when he was dragged under his vehicle. He had returned to the parked van to retrieve an item through the front window when it rolled backward. It appears he was dragged under the vehicle while trying to stop it.

Both investigations are continuing.

Contributing factors
Some contributing factors to these incidents include:

  • Workers being under a heavy vehicle or trailer, or in its path
  • Unsafe systems of work being applied, such as poor separation of traffic from pedestrian areas
  • Failing to immobilize:
    -the handbrake of the vehicle not applied
    -the wheels of the heavy vehicle or trailer not immobilized
    -components of the heavy vehicle or trailer not restrained or adequately supported
    -brakes malfunctioning
  • Not conducting a risk assessment before working on the vehicle

Action required in immobilizing heavy vehicles
If an employee needs to work near a heavy vehicle, or between a heavy vehicle and another object, first make sure the vehicle is immobilized by:

  • Switching off the motor and removing the key from the ignition to render it inoperable
  • Applying the handbrake
  • Using wheel chocks, if warranted and required

Establish a safe operating procedure and ensure workers follow it to eliminate the risk of anyone failing to immobilize their vehicle.

Consider installing a handbrake warning system to alert drivers when the handbrake has not been applied (these can be easily retrofitted).

Working under heavy vehicles and trailers
For work under heavy vehicles and trailers, ensure an appropriate load support is used (e.g. stands or lifting devices).

Risk assessments before commencing work
Before commencing work, identify hazards and assess risks associated with working under and around heavy vehicles or trailers. Where appropriate:

  1. Establish an exclusion zone that is clearly marked and enforced.
  2. Use safe work procedures for maintenance and repair tasks, and ensure that workers are trained in these procedures.
  3. Ensure worker training, experience, and competency is consistent with the nature and complexity of the task.

Similar risks exist for light and smaller vehicles, and a risk assessment should be conducted before commencing work.

Preventing similar incidents
There have been incidents where vehicle drivers and others have been killed or seriously injured after being hit, pinned, or crushed by the uncontrolled movement of vehicles. The risk of a vehicle moving in an uncontrolled or unexpected manner must be managed by ensuring appropriate control measures are in place. Controls may include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Before leaving a vehicle, ensure it is stationary and out of gear with the emergency brake applied.
  • Do not climb into a moving vehicle.
  • Do not allow any movement of the truck or vehicle unless there is someone in the driver’s seat who is able to receive oral or visual warnings and can immediately act to prevent harm (e.g. apply brakes or steer the truck).
  • When reversing, ensure the area around the vehicle is clear.
  • Always employ reverse with the aid of mirrors or a spotter.

The person conducting a business or undertaking should conduct a risk assessment of work practices, develop appropriate safe work systems, conduct appropriate training, and ensure the system is enforced at the workplace.

Since 2012, there have been 47 incidents involving workers or others being crushed, struck or run over by a truck moving in an uncontrolled method. Eleven were fatal, and 27 involved a serious injury. In the same period, 49 improvement notices and 25 prohibition notices were issued for uncontrolled movement or rolling of trucks, semitrailers, and more.

Since 2012, there have been 10 work-related deaths involving a person being run over by a vehicle or some other type of machinery. In the same period, 10 prohibition notices and eight improvement notices have been issued in relation to a person being run over by a vehicle or other type of machinery.

Each year, there are around 130 accepted worker compensation claims involving a worker being struck or crushed by a truck. Of these claims, more than a third involve a serious injury, and two are fatal.

Annually, there are around 600 accepted workers compensation claims involving a worker injured by mobile plant*. Of these claims, about 40 percent involve a serious injury requiring five or more days off work, and two are fatal.

Prosecutions and compliance
In May 2017, a company was fined $60,000 and an individual $3,000 following the death of a worker who was run over by a truck and trailer. The worker was lying under the back of the trailer to check on bouncing that had occurred while driving. Moments later, the truck and trailer began moving backward. The trailer wheels rolled over the worker, followed by the truck wheels.

In February 2017, a regional council was fined $170,000 following the death of a worker. The worker was killed after he was struck and run over by a reversing truck on a civil construction site.

In December 2016, a road freight transport company was fined $60,000 and a court ordered undertaking for two years with recognizance of $60,000 following the death of a worker who was run over by a trailer. The prime mover and trailer appeared to have trouble releasing its trailer brakes. The worker went to the rear of the trailer and attempted to release a trailer brake. When the vehicle began rolling backward, he tried to reengage the spring brake but was struck by the trailer wheels.

In June 2016, a company was fined $120,000, after a worker was killed operating a six-ton mobile yard crane to perform shifting the load of steel product. The worker was seen running alongside the crane which was traveling down a slope, uncontrolled, with no one in the operator’s seat. He was either struck by the crane, or it tipped, then run over and killed. The driver was not licensed to operate this type of crane.

*Powered mobile plant is defined by the Work Health and Safety Regulation 2011 (WHS Regulation) to mean any plant that is provided with some form of self-propulsion that is ordinarily under the direct control of an operator, and includes: earthmoving machinery (e.g. rollers, graders, scrapers, bobcats) excavators.

Thanks to WorkCover Queensland for this information highlighting the risks associated with workers being crushed or hit by heavy vehicles or trailers.

Circumstances can crop up anywhere at any time if proper and safe sequence and procedures are not planned and followed. We encourage you to learn and use the TapRooT® System to find and fix problems. Attend one of our courses. We offer a basic 2-Day Course and an advanced 5-Day Course. You may also contact us about having a course at your site.

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