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Tow truck operator pinned under sport utility vehicle when working under it.

Michigan State University
Morgantown, WV: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Public Health Service, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, FACE 05MI026, 2007 Aug; :1-8
On March 18, 2005, a 34-year-old male tow truck driver was killed when the sport utility vehicle (SUV) he was preparing to tow fell on top of him. This was his third run of the day. The SUV had sustained front-end damage when it left the roadway and struck a tree in a residential yard. Both the front tires were flat and the passenger's front tire had separated from the rim. The decedent arrived and pulled the SUV onto the roadway with his tow truck. He repositioned the tow truck to the front of the vehicle. The decedent lowered the truck boom and attached the chains. It is unknown how the decedent placed the chains under the SUV. He did not utilize wood blocks to chock the SUV's rear tires or secondary jack to support the SUV, both of which were available on the wrecker. He told police that he was going to perform a wheel lift, although based on the description of the lift in the police report he performed a sling lift. It does not appear he used the wheel lift arm to lift the disabled vehicle or to provide a backup means of support for the raised vehicle. The wheel lift arm was at ground level when the incident occurred. After attaching the chains and raising the vehicle, the decedent positioned himself on his back, approximately mid-chest under the SUV, apparently to either free the transmission or the transfer case so that the rear wheels would rotate when in tow. When he popped the transmission, the vehicle lurched and fell, landing on the decedent across his neck and chest. 9-1-1 was called. Emergency responders declared the decedent dead at the scene. Recommendations: 1. Towing and recovery industry employers should instruct and ensure employees use a secondary means of support when placing any part of their body under a raised vehicle. 2. Tow truck operators should review the Automobile Association of America (AAA ) Towing and Service Manual, AAA towing service bulletins, or the vehicle owner's manual prior to towing the vehicle to determine the proper towing method. 3. Towing and recovery industry employers should consider equipping each wheel lift tow truck with dollies if a flatbed tow vehicle is not available. 4. Tow truck operators who may be/are under the influence of drugs (illegal, prescription or over-the-counter) and/or alcohol that may place them at a risk of injury should not operate vehicles or machinery since their ability to recognize and respond appropriately to hazardous situations can be impaired. 5. Towing and recovery industry employers should ensure that a copy of MIOSHA General Industry Safety Standard, Part 72, Automotive Service Operations is available to all employees if applicable to the operation.
Region-5; Accident-analysis; Accident-potential; Accident-prevention; Accidents; Injuries; Injury-prevention; Safety-education; Safety-practices; Safety-measures; Traumatic-injuries; Work-practices; Work-analysis; Work-performance; Safety-education; Safety-monitoring; Safety-programs; Training; Work-operations; Safety-equipment; Safety-engineering; Safety-measures; Safety-practices; Substance-abuse; Alcoholic-beverages; Accident-prevention; Automotive-industry; Truck-drivers
Publication Date
Document Type
Field Studies; Fatality Assessment and Control Evaluation
Funding Type
Cooperative Agreement
Fiscal Year
NTIS Accession No.
NTIS Price
Identifying No.
FACE-05MI026; Cooperative-Agreement-Number-U60-OH-008466; Cooperative-Agreement-Number-U60-CCU-521205
SIC Code
Source Name
National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health
Performing Organization
Michigan State University
Page last reviewed: December 17, 2021
Content source: National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health Education and Information Division