The causes vary from being hit by an object to getting crushed between equipment to getting struck by vehicles while performing work activities (vehicular incidents were only classified as such when it involved a fatality while in a vehicle). The question is, what can we do to raise the awareness of struck-by incidents and emphasize awareness of our surroundings?
We constantly cover the hazards when we talk about work zone protection and the dangers of oncoming traffic, etc. But do we emphasize it in other jobs? Do we provide drop-zone protection for workers below when there are crews working overhead? Do we point out potential areas that could cause crushing injury when doing job briefings, or do we just cover the standard, known hazards? Do we remind our workers to be aware of their surroundings during their work activities and never put themselves in a position to be harmed?
While we may do some of the above, I would argue that we don’t do enough. Let’s look at a few ways to protect workers from being struck by objects.
Overhead work: When one or more workers are working from an aerial device, scaffold or ladder, there is generally a worker at ground level acting as a spotter or helper. That person may be responsible for hoisting equipment to the aboveground crew or checking to see if the aerial worker keeps clear of any energized lines or equipment by maintaining proper approach distances and ensuring proper cover-up. A properly cordoned-off drop zone provides the ground person with a barrier that can serve as a no entry zone in case a piece of equipment or tool is accidentally dropped from above.
Ground crew assisting equipment operator: Several years ago, a ground crew member was run over by a dump truck moving in reverse. The worker turned his back to check the dump site and put himself in a position where the driver couldn’t see him. When the driver looked in the mirror, he saw a clear path and proceeded to back up, not knowing the ground crewman was directly behind the vehicle until it was too late. This was before backup alarms became prominent on vehicles. Since then, many vehicles have been equipped with those alarms to ensure people’s safety on the ground. But we can do more. Processes should be put into place to ensure the vehicle’s driver and ground crew remain in sight of each other during the operation so accidents do not happen.
Reinforcing good behaviors
While these solutions may sound simple, if we don’t consistently reinforce those practices so that they become second nature, we will continue to see those types of accidents that can result in a fatality.
Even though falls, electrical contacts or in-vehicle incidents are more visible and always the focus of safety measures, there is no less risk for struck-by incidents and others that seldom make the news. These risks are real and incidents can lead to catastrophic outcomes if not addressed by increased awareness and safety procedures.