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FACEValue: Land surveyor struck and killed by passenger vehicle

NIOSH’s Fatality Assessment and Control Evaluation Reports
Date of incident: Fall 2009

A 47-year-old land surveyor died after being struck by a passenger vehicle as he walked along the road. The victim and the survey company owner were walking back to the company truck after having completed surveying tasks for the day. The owner was walking in the direction of traffic along a rural road while the victim was on the opposite side of the road. They were approaching a blind hill with no emergency lanes. The surveying work had been conducted more than 15 feet from traffic, so no warning signs were placed on the roadway. The speed limit was 55 mph. A young driver crested the hill in a passenger car, saw the pedestrians and quickly applied the brake, losing control of the vehicle. The victim ran down an embankment in an effort to escape the oncoming vehicle. The car skidded for 65 feet and fish-tailed before becoming airborne, landing on top of the victim and dragging him 15 feet before coming to a stop. The company owner called emergency medical services, which arrived on the scene and transported the victim via helicopter to the nearest trauma hospital. He died later that day.

To prevent future occurrences:

  • When surveying land near roadways, safety cones and signs should be in place to warn motorists to slow down. Because the work being conducted was not on the road, signage and cones were not required, according to the Manual of Uniform Traffic Control Devices. However, it would have been prudent to place warnings before hills, curves or other obstacles to warn drivers of work being conducted nearby.
  • A hazard assessment should be performed before land-surveying work begins. A hazard assessment should identify worksite hazards and include how to safely park and assess the vehicle to safely remove and retrieve equipment. Vehicles should be parked in locations that are easily accessible by the survey crew without requiring them to walk near traffic or other roadway hazards.
  • Land-surveying companies should have a comprehensive written safety program. Elements of a safety program should include interaction with vehicle traffic in urban and rural areas, speeding drivers, exposure to wildlife and stinging insects, traversing rough terrain, interacting with angry landowners, exposure to biohazards, and exposure to elements such as sun, wind, rain and extreme temperatures. Hazard assessment procedures and basic first aid also should be included in the safety program.

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