The accident: A landscaping crew was digging a hole to plant trees and a pickup driver was traveling between the nursery and the work site with materials. The driver unloaded his second load and prepared to head back to pick up a load of mulch. He put the truck in reverse and stepped on the accelerator. The 28-year-old victim was kneeling on the ground and the driver did not see him in his cracked, rear-view mirror. The truck slammed the man into the retaining wall before the driver was aware he hit someone. Rescue workers declared the worker dead at the scene.
What the expert says: This disaster can be linked to the worker’s unfamiliarity with the work site and an obstructed rear view due to the damaged mirror. The victim might be alive today if proper training and planning had taken place. Aaron Scarlata with PondBuilder Inc. of Saginaw, Michigan, manufactures water garden equipment used by landscapers across the United States and works with hundreds of landscapers who use trucks and trailers loaded with heavy stone. “It only takes one incident to change a life,” Scarlata says. “Safety really does come first, and employers and employees have to take responsibility. Companies who plan first and act later will likely be the ones with strong policies and a great work environment.” He offers these safety suggestions for employees working around trucks:
• Do you understand the safety procedures for this project? If you are not sure, ask for written safety instructions.
• Most accidents occur during parking and unloading. Be aware of where trucks and heavy equipment are parked.
• If parking is required, position the truck to avoid backing up later.
• Once parked, survey the area around the vehicle and make sure the truck’s path is clear of obstacles.
• If you have to back up, make sure you have good visibility of your surroundings and around the road.
• Check for dirty windows or broken mirrors, which are obstacles to a clear view.
• Don’t drive faster than 1 mph in reverse.
• Use your horn to warn other drivers and pedestrians that you are backing up.
• Check the vehicle’s blind spots before putting a truck in reverse.
• Encourage your employer to equip company trucks with sonar or Doppler radar backup alert systems. These can be a third eye for the driver.