National Safety Month: Driving & Heavy Equipment Safety in Construction

June is National Safety Month, which means it's a great time to reevaluate your company's current safety protocol. It's important to consider what we can do to maximize safety in the workplace and minimize the risk of injuries to both employees and guests.

For the fourth week of June, the focus is on driving safety. We want to focus not solely on automobiles, but also on the variety of vehicles that are used on construction sites and in other labor-intensive workplaces -- including heavy machinery, trucks, and other large vehicles.

Here are some things to consider if you're looking to fine-tune your company's safety plan for heavy machinery and vehicles.

Heavy Machinery and Vehicles in Construction
We have construction workers to thank for virtually all of the physical structures of our society -- everything from our roads to our schools to our homes, businesses, and more. It's amazing how much our society has flourished since the industrial revolution, but the construction workers who have helped build our towns and cities also face some of the most dangerous working conditions in the country.

The heavy machinery used to build construction projects is powerful and has the potential to inflict serious harm when an accident happens. This is why it's important for everyone working on a construction site to be aware of how to safely use pieces of heavy equipment such as bulldozers, cranes, forklifts, and more. Additionally, road safety needs to be stressed both for drivers who take heavy machinery on the road and for truck drivers transporting other types of construction equipment.

How Common Are Heavy Machinery and Vehicle Accidents in Construction?
The construction industry has some of the highest injury and fatality rates in the United States, and vehicles and heavy equipment are involved in many of these accidents. From 1992 to 2010, vehicles and mobile heavy equipment accounted for 7,681 construction worker deaths, or an average of about 404 per year. Workers at construction road sites are at a particularly high risk. Between 2008 and 2010, vehicles were involved in over half of the fatalities at these sites. This was double the proportion of vehicle deaths in the construction industry as a whole.

The numbers paint a grim picture, but there are ways to greatly reduce the risk heavy machinery and construction vehicle accidents on your company's job sites. With the right planning, training, and maintenance routine, you can minimize the risk your contractors and laborers face on the job.

Operating Heavy Machinery Safely
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has extensive guidelines for operating heavy equipment. Construction sites that closely follow these guidelines can expect to see reduced rates of accidents, injuries, and deaths.

OSHA guidelines for heavy equipment include:

  • Only trained employees are permitted to operate heavy equipment. Employees who have not been trained in the operation of such equipment may not even press the equipment's start button.
  • Equipment must be stored properly. This includes covering blades, keeping brakes in the locked position, and having safety latches down.
  • OSHA requires regular inspections of heavy equipment. Without regular inspections, underlying problems can easily go unnoticed and lead to accidents.
  • Employees should be provided with all necessary safety gear.

Safe Driving To and From Construction Sites
Construction workers aren't at risk only when they're on the job; traveling between sites and transporting equipment can pose a danger in and of itself, as these construction vehicles are at risk of being involved in accidents with other vehicles.

While there's always the possibility of a negligent driver causing an avoidable accident, there are some safety principles to keep in mind for keeping construction vehicles and workers safe on the road:

  • Keep a Safe Following Distance: This is important for all drivers, but even more for drivers of heavy equipment and trucks. Because of the heavy weight for these types of equipment, damage can be severe even in low-speed collisions. Keep a safe following distance so you can stop in time and minimize the risk of colliding with the back of another vehicle.
  • Watch Your Rear: It's important for drivers of large vehicles and heavy equipment to remain constantly aware of what's going on behind them. Because these vehicles are usually moving at a slower pace, it's extremely common for other vehicles to grow impatient and attempt to pass them. Drivers should make sure to regularly check their rear-view mirror and make use of alert and warning systems such as turn signals, brake lights, and headlights.
  • Plan Your Routes: The best way to minimize your risk of being involved in a traffic accident is to avoid traffic as much as possible. Planning transportation and delivery routes outside of rush hour (ideally early in the morning) means there is a far lesser risk of being involved in an accident. Certain types of roads are also safer -- interstate highways are the safest, while two-lane undivided highways are the most dangerous.

Construction companies should regularly evaluate their safety programs and make sure they're covering all their bases. Companies that draft good safety plans and follow them closely can greatly reduce the risk their workers face on the job.

Laurence Banville, Esq. is the managing partner and face of Banville Law, a personal injury law firm helping New York residents. Laurence is licensed to practice law in the state of New York. Originally from Ireland, Banville moved to the United States of America, where he worked at law firms, refining his litigation and brief writing crafts. He is also the recipient of the Irish Legal 100 and the Top 40 Under 40 awards.

Posted on Jun 26, 2018