Recently a construction company in another state was cited by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) for three safety violations. A 35-year-old maintenance worker for a construction company was killed after being hit by a front-end loader and pushed against a semitrailer. The administrator for OSHA in that location noted that “struck-by” hazards lead the types of injury for workers in that area. Although this particular injury did not occur in Massachusetts, these tragic injuries happen all over the country.
The construction company in that case was issued two serious citations. As explained in other posts, “serious” citations are those in which a substantial possibility of death or serious physical harm existed from a danger that an employer knew or should have known about. The first citation was for operating a loader, the safety features of which had not been appropriately checked. The second was for failing to have someone adequately trained to offer the victim first aid given that they weren’t working near a medical treatment facility.
OSHA proposed a $14,000 fine. It also alerted the company to hazards that showed workers were exposed to crushing based on working around front-end loaders. Front-end loaders are machines with a wide bucket situated at the end of two booms used on construction sites to hold heavy materials in place or scoop material to be dumped someplace else.
The cause of many struck-by accidents is reversing into a pedestrian, unstable ground or inclines. But front-end loaders on construction sites present many other hazards. Safety is of paramount concern with a front-end loader. If you operate a front-end loader you need to be sure not to swing or dump your load with people standing nearby. A front-end loader needs to be operated slowly, with the bucket raised and lowered carefully. A front-end loader that is turning will require extra space because it doesn’t turn as quickly as a motorcycle or car. Those who drive a front-end loader have probably experienced a bouncing and weaving sensation while driving; this is dangerous. If you experience this, it’s important to slow down, especially if you are driving on an incline.
While carrying a load in a bucket on a front-end loader, the bucket should be low down, but not scraping the ground. Carrying the bucket too high can lead to an operator spilling the load on someone else. But, as the accident described above suggests, you must still be careful when carrying a bucket low because you could pin someone inadvertently.
Similarly, a driver must back up very carefully when driving a front-end loader. Often there is a back-up alarm on a front-end loader, but there is no guarantee that it is working—or that people can hear it on a noisy jobsite—and moreover, you should always be aware of your surroundings when operating this machine. You should feel free to sound the horn if someone is near the machine and you feel they might be in danger.
If you are hurt at work, you may be entitled to workers’ compensation benefits. An experienced Massachusetts workers’ compensation attorney can evaluate whether you have a sound claim and fight to make sure that your employer and its insurer follow the rules. Contact us by calling 800-367-0871 or using our online contact form.