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Compactor overturns and rollover protective structures.

Myers ML
Silver Spring, MD: The Center to Protect Workers' Rights, 2004 Apr; :1-16
Compactors - also known as steamrollers - are mobile vehicles used to increase the density of soil and roadways and to seal and smooth asphalt surfaces. Compactors tend to overturn during some operations, thus putting their operators at risk. A rollover protective structure (ROPS) is a part of a compactor or other heavy equipment designed to protect an operator from a crushing injury in the event of a rollover. Particularly with seatbelt use, ROPSs have been shown to save lives. In 1971, the Employment Standards Administration, part of the U.S. Department of Labor, drafted the following language under the Construction Safety Act: "The promulgation of specific standards for rollover protective structures for reserved pending consideration of standards currently being developed." The newly established U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) adopted the language in its rules the following year. Although consensus standards were developed soon thereafter (by the Society of Automotive Engineers), the OSHA rules were never changed to require ROPS on compactors. This study examined government investigation reports of work-related deaths and injuries in 1986- 2002 to learn the public health implications of a widespread lack of ROPS and seatbelts on compactors. Among the findings: 1) Operators and drivers have been killed or seriously injured as a result of a lack of ROPSs and seatbelts on compactors. Compactors with ROPSs were found to restrict overturns to 90 degrees, whereas compactors without ROPSs were found to average more than two revolutions per event. 2) Of 58 compactor overturns examined, nearly half involved the smooth-drum type of compactor, as compared with the steel-drum type and the pad-foot type. 3) The highest overturn hazard locations were along roadway or embankment edges. The next-mosthazardous situation was runaway machines, typically down slopes. 4) Compacting of soil appears to have been more hazardous than other compacting operations, especially for the smooth-drum and pad-foot compactors. Soil edges were a hazard, as were soft soil pockets that can drop under the weight of a unit. 5) The stability of a compactor was affected by maintaining vibration while stationary, turning away from a slope with articulated steering, or using water as ballast, because water can slosh from side to side in the water tanks. 6) Loading or unloading compactors on trailers posed potential overturn hazards; the hazards were caused by skidding on inclines by smooth-drum compactors, using wood blocks or planks as a ramp, or loading a narrow unit that lacks the width to reach both loading ramps. 7) Failure to use a seatbelt when a compactor had an ROPS was a hazard. Some seatbelts were inoperable and some had not been installed on new compactors. However, using a seatbelt when there was no ROPS resulted in a death also. 8) When an ROPS was reported as the part of a compactor that pinned or crushed an operator, in five instances where the reports were detailed, it was an overhead canopy that struck the operator. 9) An OSHA directive in 1998 established that the lack of an ROPS and seatbelt on compactors is a hazard enforceable under the OSHA General Duty Clause.
Construction; Construction-equipment; Construction-workers; Construction-industry; Injury-prevention; Equipment-design; Equipment-operators; Equipment-reliability; Regulations; Standards; Safety-engineering; Safety-equipment; Safety-measures; Machine-operation; Machine-operators; Motor-vehicle-parts; Motor-vehicles; Road-construction; Road-surfacing; Protective-equipment; Safety-belts
The Center to Protect Workers' Rights, Suite 1000, 8484 Georgia Ave., Silver Spring, MD 20910
Publication Date
Document Type
Funding Amount
Funding Type
Cooperative Agreement; Construction
Fiscal Year
Identifying No.
Priority Area
Source Name
Compactor Overturns and Rollover Protective Structures
Performing Organization
Center to Protect Workers' Rights
Page last reviewed: March 18, 2022
Content source: National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health Education and Information Division