Fatality Assessment and Control Evaluation (FACE) Program
Laborer Dies After Being Backed Over by Dump Truck at a Nighttime Highway Work Zone Construction Site - Massachusetts
On June 3, 2008, a 31-year-old male construction laborer (the victim) was fatally injured when he was struck by a backing dump truck. The victim was on foot walking away from the dump truck, towards oncoming traffic, while painting a guideline for the operator of an asphalt milling machine to follow. The dump truck operator started to back the dump truck, striking the victim with the right rear double wheels. The dump truck operator realized that he had struck something, placed the truck in drive, moved the truck forward approximately 54 feet and exited the truck. When the dump truck operator walked to the rear of the truck he noticed the victim and started to yell for help. Calls were placed for emergency medical services (EMS). A state trooper assigned to the work zone was radioed by dispatch, scanned the immediate area for the victim, and then got into his police car and drove to the incident location. Within minutes EMS arrived and pronounced the victim deceased at the incident location and the Medical Examiner's Office was called. The Massachusetts FACE Program concluded that to prevent similar occurrences in the future, employers should:
On June 3, 2008, the Massachusetts FACE Program was alerted by the local media that on the same day a male laborer was fatally injured when he was struck by a backing dump truck in a roadway construction site. An investigation was immediately initiated. On July 18, 2008, the Massachusetts FACE Program Director and an investigator traveled to the company headquarters and to the incident location. While at the company headquarters, the Massachusetts FACE project representatives met with the company's Safety Director and a Project Manager. The police report, death certificate, company information, and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) fatality and catastrophe report were reviewed during the course of the investigation. The incident location was photographed.
The employer's primary business is roadway and highway construction projects, stone quarrying, and manufacturing of hot mix asphalt, with locations in two states. The company has been in business for 60 years. The company has five main divisions: administration, materials (asphalt manufacturing and mining), contracting (milling asphalt roadways and laying asphalt), real estate (managing and maintenance of properties), and sales / marketing. The numbers of employees ranges from 160 – 204. The bulk of the company's work is seasonal resulting in a fluctuating employee count, with the largest number of employees from March through November. The victim's job title was ground laborer and had worked at the company for four years.
The company has a full time health and safety professional and a written health and safety program. The company provides health and safety training to all employees and also offers the training to its contracted trucking services, other companies, and customers. Training topics consist of, but are not limited to, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) 10 hour course, the Mine Safety and Health Administration 8 hour course, and courses on confined space, hazard communication, fall protection, flagging certification, and first aid. There is some documentation for all of the trainings and, when required, the training proficiency is tested. The company has a health and safety committee that includes representatives from all of the company's divisions and union labor representatives. The company reported that they distribute workplace/home safety information with employee paychecks as part of their way to highlight and enforce the company's safety culture. The majority of the company's employees in Massachusetts are part of collective bargaining units.
The project involved in the incident was a federally funded nighttime roadway resurfacing project for a section of a major interstate. The company had won a state bid for this project, which was not the company's first state funded project. The company has been paving for most of its 60 years in business and they had recently started performing the process of milling roadway surfaces instead of subcontracting this process out. This project was the company's first job performing the milling process themselves. The company reported that the process of milling is very similar to paving, in terms of work zone setup, management, and hazards.
The project started in March of 2008 and was scheduled to be completed in September 2009. The work was scheduled to take place at night from, 9:00 p.m. to 6:00 a.m., Sundays through Thursdays. The two major components of the project were to mill down the current asphalt roadway surface and then repave the milled section of roadway. The project location was a major interstate consisting of a six-lane asphalt highway with a left hand asphalt shoulder, a right hand breakdown lane and a large grass median. The asphalt shoulder is four feet wide with a right hand solid yellow line. The three travel lanes are each 12 feet wide, separated by white dashed lines (skip lines), and the breakdown lane is ten feet wide with a continuous white fog line bordering the right lane (Figure 1). The section of the interstate roadway to be repaved was 2.9 miles long and 50 feet wide, the width of all travel lanes, shoulder, and breakdown lane. This section of roadway where the incident occurred is level and straight, with a very slight curve. At the time of the incident it was dark with temperatures in the 50s and the roadway was dry.
The night of the incident was the first night of milling. The company had two work crews onsite: a safety crew and a milling crew. The safety crew consisted of one safety foreman and two laborers. The safety crew's main tasks were to the set up and maintain the work zone. The milling crew consisted of one construction superintendent, one milling superintendent/ supervisor, one milling foreman, three ground laborers (including the victim), and one operating engineer. The milling crew's main task was to conduct the actual asphalt milling operation. In addition, on the night of the incident there were three state police troopers assigned to the project and one state highway department engineer onsite.
At approximately 8:00 p.m., the company's safety crew and construction superintendent, along with state troopers, arrived at the project site. The crew started setting up the work zone, which was about one mile long and included shutting down the three northbound travel lanes. The 10- foot break down lane and two feet of the right-hand travel lane were designated as the single travel lane for motorists to pass by the work zone. This temporary travel lane was separated from the work zone by traffic barrels. A right-hand entrance ramp merged with the single designated travel lane adjacent to the work zone. The southbound travel lanes were not affected on the night of the incident (Figure 2). The work zone set up was completed by 8:30 p.m.
The section of roadway that was scheduled to be milled on the night of the incident was 2,400 linear feet of asphalt for each of the three travel lanes and breakdown lane. Between 8:30 p.m. and 9:00 p.m., the milling crew arrived on site with the equipment needed for the milling task. This included, but was not limited to, a cold planer (milling machine), water truck, sweeper, skid-steer loader and two light towers. Each light tower consisted of an extending boom and four area lights. One of the light towers was positioned at the beginning of the milling operation (start line) and the other light tower was positioned at the end of the milling operation. No lights were set up between the two light towers, which had been reported as the company's normal lighting set up. During the milling process, when the milling machine was in between the two stationary light towers, the lights located on the milling machine were used to illuminate the work area.
The milling machine was recently purchased new by the company. Milling machines are designed to remove the top layers of worn or deteriorated asphalt, eliminating surface imperfections such as bumps and ruts. During the milling process, the removed asphalt is ground up and discharged via a conveyor that is located at the front of the machine. A dump truck is positioned at the end of the conveyor to collect the discharged asphalt. The dump truck is driven forward to move along with the milling machine so discharged asphalt from the milling machine's conveyor is continuously flowing into the dump truck. The operator's area, located on top of the milling machine, has a dual control console. This allows the operator to control the machine from either the left or right sides of the machine.
The cutting width of this milling machine was seven feet. One pass of the milling machine, from south to north along this 2,400-foot section, was estimated to take about forty minutes. When the equipment reached the end of the 2,400 foot section, it would then back in a southerly direction to the start line. The backing process takes about five minutes. Before the next pass of the milling machine begins, there is a 10-minute down time where the equipment is checked and other tasks such as filling the milling machine's water tank are performed.
There were 13 tri-axle dump trucks being used to collect the milled asphalt on the night of this incident. All of the dump trucks were owned and operated by multiple subcontractors hired by the company. The dump trucks entered the work zone and positioned themselves facing north in the approximate location of where the dump truck would be loaded with milled asphalt. Loaded dump trucks would then drive out of the work zone and to a dump site that was nine miles from the project location. After the load of milled asphalt was dumped, the truck would then return to the construction work zone and get back in line with the other dump trucks and wait their turn for their next load of milled asphalt.
The victim was a ground laborer and his main tasks were to observe the milling process and ensure that the dump trucks collecting the milled asphalt were in the correct position relative to the milling machine's conveyor. The victim was wearing blue jeans, a dark colored sweatshirt, work boots, a high visibility Class II green vest, and a red hardhat. Prior to the incident, three passes of the milling machine had been completed and the milling equipment had backed to the start line. During the ten minute down time some of the workers conduct required tasks, such as filling the milling machine's water tank, or are on break. During this particular downtime, it was reported that the company foreman had planned on painting a section of a guideline when the victim offered to perform this task. A guideline is used by the milling machine operator to ensure that during the milling process the milling machine is moving in a straight line. The task was to connect the existing white skip lines, which are the dashed lines that separated the highway travel lanes, with white paint. It was reported by the employer that the non-painted sections between the white skip lines were each 40 feet long.
The task of painting the guideline was performed using a paint stick, a tool that consists of a pole with a location for a spray paint can, a handle with a trigger, and a wheel to roll the device along the painted path. Although the incident was not witnessed, it appears that the victim had walked to the northern boundary of the section to be milled, turned to face the on coming traffic and started walking in the southerly direction back towards the start line as he painted the guideline. The 14-wheel tri-axle dump truck that backed over the victim was next in line to be loaded with milled asphalt (Figure 3). It appears that the truck driver may have thought he needed to reposition his dump truck closer to the milling machine and started to back the truck in a southerly direction. At approximately 1:20 a.m., while backing, the dump truck's rear right dual wheels struck and ran over the victim. The dump truck driver realized that he ran something over and drove the truck forward approximately 54 feet, running over the victim a second time. The dump truck driver got out of the truck's cab, walked to the rear of the truck, found the victim, and started yelling for help.
Emergency medical services (EMS) were called and one of the state troopers assigned to the work zone immediately got into his police car and drove to the victim's location, approximately 450 feet north of the milling machine. Within minutes EMS arrived and pronounced the victim dead at the incident location and the Medical Examiner's Office was called.
The driver of the dump truck had a passenger (non employee) present inside the cab at the time of the incident. According to federal law (49 CFR Part 392.60) unless authorized in writing by the motor carrier under whose authority the commercial motor vehicle is being operated, no driver shall transport any person on any commercial motor vehicle other than a bus.1 After the incident the dump truck was impounded by the Department of Transportation and a full inspection of the truck was conducted. The truck appeared to be in good working order with a functioning backup alarm and backup lights.
Cause of Death
The medical examiner listed the cause of death for the victim as blunt force trauma to head and torso, including skull and spine fractures and injuries to internal organs.
Recommendation #1: Employers should develop, implement, and enforce an internal traffic control plan (ITCP) specific to each construction site to help protect workers on foot.
Discussion: In work environments where mobile equipment are being operated, workers on foot are exposed to potential struck-by hazards, particularly being backed over.2a An internal traffic control plan (ITCP) is a tool that a project manager can use to coordinate the flow of construction vehicles, equipment, and workers on foot moving in close proximity to each other on a construction site.3 An ITCP should be developed for all medium, large, and multicontractor jobs, such as this repaving job. For small recurrent operations, such as filling potholes, a checklist can be used in place of a complete ITCP.3 The ITCP should be included as part of the company's comprehensive healthy and safety program.
To reduce the hazard associated with backing construction vehicles and equipment, an ITCP can be developed to minimize the backing distances of all vehicles and equipment on a work site with the goal of eliminating backing vehicles and equipment altogether. This can be accomplished by taking into consideration the tasks to be performed by the vehicles and equipment and how the vehicles and equipment can safely navigate through the construction site to complete these tasks while backing as little as possible. The ITCP should also address workers on foot by creating walking zones for these workers that are clear of backing construction vehicles and equipment.3 This can be accomplished by taking into consideration the tasks to be performed by the workers on foot, and how these workers can safely navigate through the construction site to complete these tasks. Some areas within a construction work zone might have to be defined as areas that are prohibited for workers on foot. Providing employees training on the ITCP and sharing the plan with all workers on the site, including contracted and sub-contracted truck drivers, is essential for the ITCP to be effective.
Figure 3 – Truck involved in the incident.
To contact Massachusetts State FACE program personnel regarding State-based FACE reports, please use information listed on the Contact Sheet on the NIOSH FACE web site Please contact In-house FACE program personnel regarding In-house FACE reports and to gain assistance when State-FACE program personnel cannot be reached.