Whether you work with heavy equipment or just around it, this is dangerous machinery that demands respect. When something goes wrong, it has the potential to change a worker’s life forever.
Roughly 10.3 million Americans work in the construction industry, where there is a variety of heavy equipment used each day. About 400,000 workers in this country run heavy equipment, and approximately 4% of these are considered self-employed. The top industries that employ these operators include:
- Bridge and road construction
- Utility companies
- State and local governments
- Specialty trades
Heavy Equipment Operator Injuries
Heavy equipment operators must be concerned with the precision of the work they are doing as well as the safety of themselves and others. These massive pieces of machinery have the ability to cause serious injury and can be deadly with one wrong move. Some of the most common causes of heavy equipment accidents include:
- Rollover or tipping accidents – A study by the Journal of Safety Research revealed that more than half of heavy equipment operator deaths were due to rollover accidents.
- Backup accidents – Another major cause of heavy equipment accidents is machinery backing into other workers on the ground.
- Collision accidents – A piece of heavy equipment can also collide with other vehicles, construction materials, or people, causing injury or death.
Malfunctioning or unsafe heavy equipment can lead to serious worker injuries. These include:
- Traumatic brain injuries (TBI)
- Spinal cord injuries
- Degloving injuries
- Eye injuries
Dangerous Heavy Equipment That Leads to Injury & Death
Anyone who works with heavy equipment will admit that this machinery can do severe damage. Some of the most dangerous types of heavy equipment that can lead to serious consequences on the job include:
Bulldozers and Front-End Loaders
The Center to Protect Workers (CPWR) reports that nearly 100 people are killed annually by mobile heavy equipment. Bulldozers, which are some of the heaviest, can weigh up to 104 tons. They are also incredibly loud, so others may not hear instructions or warnings from co-workers over the sound of the machinery.
Common bulldozer injuries occur when the equipment changes direction or backs up. Workers could be crushed by the equipment’s blade or run over if the brakes aren’t set. An operator could get crushed if there is a heavy load while the machinery is operating on a slope.
All equipment should be operated within its design limits. Anyone operating a bulldozer or front-end loader must have proper training. When possible, use spotters and minimize backing to reduce the chance of accidents.
Backhoes and excavators are large, mobile pieces of equipment that are dangerous from either end. A worker could be struck by the shovel, trapped beneath the backhoe when it moves, or run over by the equipment.
Anyone using a backhoe ought to be thoroughly licensed and trained. These should never be used near utility lines, drop-offs, or dangerous obstacles. The machines need to be frequently inspected and kept in safe working condition.
Cranes are considered some of the most dangerous pieces of heavy equipment used in construction. They are involved in up to 50 construction-related deaths each year. A worker could be struck by a crane part or load, fall if a crane collapses, or electrocuted if a crane comes into contact with power lines.
Crane equipment should only be operated by trained and qualified workers. They should be inspected regularly, and various crane safety regulations must be followed to avoid serious accidents.
Construction workers use forklifts for a variety of reasons, such as lifting loaded pallets and removing debris. When something goes wrong during these operations, it can result in falls, workers getting struck by the forklift or falling materials, forklift rollovers, and crush injuries.
Worker Safety – Accident Prevention Involving Heavy Equipment
Using heavy equipment on a job site can lead to dangerous situations that cause injuries and risk lives. Some of the safety tips that employers and contractors can use to prevent heavy equipment accidents include:
- Conduct a vehicle inspection before every shift and never operate a vehicle or piece of equipment that appears defective.
- Ensure that vehicles are properly maintained.
- Always wear a seatbelt and use other mandated safety equipment.
- Vehicles should be equipped with an audible reverse alarm to alert others.
- When driving in reverse, another worker should be available to signal if there is an obstructed view.
- Clear personnel from the area if dumping or lifting devices are being used.
- Operators should be properly trained and certified to use the equipment.
- Never exceed equipment capacity.
- Always maintain a three-point contact when entering or exiting equipment to prevent falls.
- Never enter or exit equipment that is in operation or moving.
- Always secure materials and tools when performing overhead work.
Who is Responsible for Heavy Equipment Injuries & Deaths?
Employers, contractors, and subcontractors have a duty to provide a safe workplace. Likewise, the manufacturer of the equipment must deliver a piece of equipment that is free of defects. Other parties that could be found liable cases like this include a landowner or a government entity.
If you were seriously injured in a heavy equipment accident, there are several entities that could be held accountable for your harm. Each one is going to have an insurance company and attorneys in their corner denying responsibility, so you will have to defend your case and be ready to fight for the compensation you deserve.
A Workplace Injury Attorney Can Maximize Your Compensation
While construction accidents happen frequently, they can typically be prevented. If safety measures are followed, fewer accidents would take place, and more lives would be saved. When they do occur, someone should be held accountable.
An injury involving a piece of heavy equipment is anything but routine. A potentially disabling workplace injury that results in bodily harm, lost wages, and other damages can impact you physically, emotionally, and financially. Workers’ compensation benefits may be available, but they might not be the only option in a construction accident case.
At Bailey, Javins & Carter, L.C., our firm specializes in workplace accidents and injuries, and we are intimately familiar with the construction industry. Your personal injury attorney will thoroughly review the circumstances of your accident to identify the parties that should be pursued for your damages.
Our goal is to ensure that you receive the compensation you need and deserve after a devastating heavy equipment accident. Contact our Atlanta office today at (678) 981-5370 to schedule your free consultation.