On July 3, 2013, a 24-year-old oil and gas delivery truck driver was fatally injured when he was crushed between a dozer and the front of his semi-truck. The driver was delivering concrete to the job site and, due to the hilly terrain, needed a tow to the well site.
The towing dozer operator backed to the front of the driver’s semi-truck. The driver exited his cab to connect to the dozer’s towline. The driver was attempting to connect the towline to the front of his truck, but he needed a D-ring to complete the connection. The dozer operator got up from his seat and was exiting the dozer to hand the driver a D-ring.
When exiting the dozer, it is believed his foot hit the parking brake lever and the dozer rolled backward, crushing the driver between the two vehicles. Emergency medical services (EMS) was called, and CPR was administered by another dozer operator until EMS arrived on-scene.
Occupational injuries and fatalities are often the result of one or more contributing factors or key events in a larger sequence of events that ultimately result in the injury or fatality. NIOSH investigators identified the following unrecognized hazards as key contributing factors in this incident:
- Lack of safety training or standard operating procedure for towing vehicles;
- Lack of appropriate safeguards for equipment;
- Lack of spotter or designated hookup personnel;
- Steep terrain;
- Short length of chain being used; winch cable and chain not spooled out; and
- Truck not properly equipped ahead of time for towing (i.e., no D-ring pre-mounted on hitch pin).
NIOSH investigators concluded that to help prevent similar occurrences, employers should:
- Ensure employees follow safe operating procedures as written in the equipment’s operations manual;
- Implement standard operating procedures for equipment operations such as parking and towing;
- Use a job hazard analysis (JHA) to identify and eliminate towing hazards;
- Ensure vehicles are properly equipped for towing prior to initiating the towing connection procedures (either have a D-ring pre-mounted on the truck’s hitch pin or have a D-ring in the truck);
- When possible, ensure a designated area is flat prior to making towing connections; and
- Dozer equipment manufacturers should consider providing an engineering control, such as an interlock or other safeguards, to prevent parking brake levers from disengaging.