According to OSHA, caught-between and struck by hazards collectively are part of the four deadliest dangers to our workplace Family. Although it seems like common sense to never place yourself between a piece of heavy equipment or vehicle and an immovable object, when you’re in a hurry or not concentrating on the job at hand sometimes you find yourself in unexpected danger. Here are some tips to prevent becoming a victim of caught-in/between accidents.
What are the hazards?
Employees working around vehicles & heavy equipment are exposed to pinch points, back-in-to, run-over, and back-over hazards when working in close proximity. If you’re not the one operating a piece of equipment, stay away from it. You could get pinned between the equipment and a stationary vehicle, wall, barrier or embankment. Also, stay out of the swing radius of equipment; the operator may not be able to see you. If you must approach a piece of equipment, make eye contact with the operator and use a clear hand signal that you are approaching his machine. Stop and double check before backing out of bays or garages. During winter months, many commute and start or end their day in dark or low light posing additional risk.
What are the results?
Serious bodily harm including, injuries to the head, back, extremities and internal organs. These types of struck-by incidents can result in life-changing injuries and are often fatal. Incidents involving struck by and caught between causes affect the injured person, the operator/driver, and any one nearby who saw or respond to the scene. There is no-one that is unaffected by a serious injury.
What should we look for?
Blind spots, congested work areas, multiple trades working in a single work space, inoperative backup alarms, pinch-points between machinery/vehicles and fixed objects, vehicular traffic in and around work zones, laydown yards, and parking areas. Always watch out for the “Other-Guy” who is distracted. Anticipate that others may cut you off, back out suddenly, and take off without looking first.
Areas posing a threat to others by our work will be barricaded. Be Responsible to make sure that barricades are properly maintained, and stay clear if not your work area. Use caution tape/cones to warn workers and drivers of an excavators swing area or an open trench. Temporarily, a flagger can be used to identify unsafe areas. If at any time you see a barrier that has fallen, damaged or is needed, act to correct it and report it quickly to your supervisor.
Spotters are key to success: Ask for help in tight spots to back in or maneuver between stationary objects. Don’t wait to be asked, if you see a driver or operator in difficulty then offer your help to spot them. Use the “20 ft. or 2 eyes” method to ensure safe movement.
How do we prevent these incidents?
- Avoid darting-out and blind spots where you can go unseen by operators/drivers
- Respond to back up alarms and ensure they function properly. Check all lights and mirrors to see & be seen.
- Use spotters & flaggers to warn operators/drivers of nearby workers and hazards
- Always determine a route of escape. Barricade your work are to warn others.
- Always wear light colored, high-visibility/reflective clothing to be seen.
“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence then, is not an act, but a habit.” Aristotle, Greek philosopher & scientist