SOLUTION: Work Zone incident Case Study

SOLUTION: Work Zone incident Case Study.

Case 3: Work Zone incident
On July 18, 2006, a 21-year-old male road construction worker (the victim) was fatally injured
when a dump truck partially loaded with asphalt backed over him. The victim was a member of a
road construction crew working at night on a state highway paving project. The dump truck
driver was backing through the work zone, with the truck’s back up alarm sounding, toward the
next section of roadway to be paved when the truck struck the victim. The paver and paving crew
had already re-positioned to the next section of roadway to be paved. The dump truck driver was
watching the driver’s side mirror as he was backing to align the truck with the re-positioned
paver. As he was backing he did not see anyone behind the truck. He then saw something appear
out from under the front of the truck, at which time he stopped the truck. Evidence suggests the
victim had his back to the dump truck. The victim had not been assigned tasks within the
workzone, but may have been shoveling spilled asphalt. Emergency medical services (EMS)
personnel were called and arrived on the scene to find the victim deceased.
On July 18, 2006, a 21-year-old male road construction worker (the victim) was fatally injured
when a dump truck partially loaded with asphalt backed over him. On August 9-10, 2006,
investigators conducted an investigation of the incident. The case was reviewed with the paving
contractor’s Safety Director; the Department of Transportation (DOT), Office of Employee
Safety and Health; and, the compliance officer assigned to the case. None of the coworkers or
supervisors who were working on the night of the incident were available to be interviewed. A
copy of the state police report was reviewed. DOT provided photographs taken the day after the
incident. Photographs of the site were also taken by investigators.
The victim’s employer, a paving corporation, employed approximately 140 employees during
peak season, and had approximately 85 employees working throughout the year. The company
had been in operation since the mid-1940s. The company worked a variety of state contracted
and commercial projects. A typical highway paving crew consisted of approximately 15 crew
members. The company operated 30 dump trucks and contracted 30 independently owned trucks.
The night of the incident the employer was working a state Department of Transportation project
with one area supervisor and one project supervisor.
The victim was 21 years of age, and had been employed for 3 months as a general laborer with
the paving company. His primary responsibility was that of a van driver to transport workers
who did not possess driver’s licenses to and from the job site. When not driving a van, he would
sometimes perform duties such as flagger or laborer.
The project was being completed with one paver, two rollers, a sign truck, a distributor truck,
and 15 dump trucks. All dump trucks hauling asphalt on the project were owned and operated by
independent contractors. The truck involved in this incident was a 2005 model year dual axle
dump truck measuring 33’4” in length and 8’ 7” in width. The truck was inspected by VOSH and
found to have properly functioning lights and back up alarm.
Safety program and training
The paving contractor employed a full-time Safety Director who was not on site at the time of
the incident. Site supervisors are responsible for site safety, and safety problems are reported to
the company Safety Director, as necessary. The company had a comprehensive written safety
and training program, but no site specific plan was available for review.
Classroom training and informal bi-monthly “toolbox” safety talks were provided to company
employees. There was no evidence found that the victim had received any type of internal work
zone safety training prior to the incident. No training program was targeted towards subcontractors. No safety procedures were specified in the contract language other than the use of
traffic signage specified by DOT requirements.
This was the employer’s second fatal back over incident; the prior fatality occurred in 1993.
The employer had been contracted by VDOT to pave an urban stretch of 4 lane divided state
highway. Paving of the highway travel lanes had been completed, and before lane line painting
could begin, the paving of the turn lanes approaching the intersections needed to be completed.
An independent trucking company had been contracted to assist with hauling asphalt from the
asphalt plant to the project site.
Work on the turn lanes began on the evening of July 18, 2006, at approximately 8:00 p.m., with
closure of the inside westbound lane adjacent to the concrete median and the set up of the work
zone. Traffic cones were used to close the westbound lane and channel traffic past the work zone
(Diagram 1). The project area was described as being very dark with the absence of street lights
along the work zone. Parking area lighting from adjacent business establishments provided the
only ambient lighting in the project area.
Diagram 1: Overhead view of workzone
After paving a turn lane, operators of the paver and dump truck loaded with asphalt would
proceed to the next turn lane. The paving company’s Safety Director stated to investigators that
the employer’s normal standard operating procedure (SOP) briefed verbally to drivers was for
trucks not to back through the intersections. The stated SOP was for the trucks to perform a uturn and enter the east bound lane and travel back past the paver before turning back into the
west bound lane, approaching the paver from the rear while driving forward (Diagram 2). The
truck would then pull forward in front of the paver, thereby minimizing the backing distance to
the paver. Spotters were located only at the paving machine to assist the driver in aligning the
truck with the paver. No written SOP for trucks backing through the work zone was provided to
Diagram 2: Depiction of truck approaching paver in accordance with stated SOP
At the time of the incident, the paving crew had just finished a turn lane and had backed the
paver through the closed lane to the next turn lane which was located at an intersection
approximately 150 yards east of the previous turn lane. The paving crew had walked with the
paving equipment to the next intersection. The victim had not walked with the rest of the crew,
but had remained further back in the closed lane (Photo 1). None of the work crew or the on site
supervisor knew why the victim had not accompanied the rest of the work crew to the paver.
According to the site supervisor he was not assigned any tasks in the work zone.
Photo 1. View facing west towards turn lane paved just prior to incident. Photo illustrates
the location of the victim after being struck in relation to the truck after coming to rest in
the inside west bound lane.
As the driver was backing the dump truck through the work zone (backing east through the
closed westbound lane) he was looking through his driver’s side mirror to aide in aligning the
truck with the paver while approaching the intersection. The driver stated he did not see anyone
behind the truck. As he was backing the truck he felt a bump and noticed something appear out
from under the front of the truck (Diagram 3). The driver stopped and got out of the truck. A
VDOT Consultant Inspector, who was at the project site, was signaled that there was a problem.
The inspector looked up and saw what appeared to be a high visibility traffic vest in the road.
EMS personnel and the Virginia State Police were notified at approximately 11:00 p.m. The
victim was pronounced dead at the scene.
Diagram 3: Truck backing through westbound lane towards paver
Evidence suggests the victim had his back to the truck when he was struck. He was struck by the
rear right side of the truck and the right side tires passed over him. The truck was approximately
100 feet from the intersection it was approaching when it struck the victim (Photo 2). The victim
was wearing a high visibility vest and hard hat. A shovel normally used to shovel asphalt spill
back onto the roadway was beside the victim. Although the victim had not been assigned any
tasks within the work zone, he may have been shoveling spilled asphalt at the time he was struck
by the truck. The paving company’s safety director stated the back up alarm and lights were
functional on the truck. Other than flood lights on the paving equipment and working lights on
the trucks, no supplemental lighting sources were present at the site. The work crew had been
provided with hard hat lights.
Photo 2. View facing east towards intersection and turn lane where paver was being repositioned. Truck was backing towards the turn lane denoted by “X”. The “Y” denotes
resting position of rear truck tires after striking victim.
Cause of Death
The medical examiner’s office reported that the cause of death was multiple crushing trauma.

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SOLUTION: Work Zone incident Case Study

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