Safety Tips FACE Reports

Worker killed preparing pickup truck for towing

NIOSH’s Fatality Assessment and Control Evaluation Reports

Date of incident: Summer 2003

A 28-year-old manager of a satellite TV company was killed when a truck he was preparing for towing rolled off a dolly and crushed him. On the day of the incident, the victim was sent to interview a prospective new hire and transport a company truck back to headquarters for repairs. He pulled the truck along a tiltbed dolly he had used about 20 times previously. Because the truck being towed had an automatic transmission and rear-wheel drive, the drive shaft had to be disconnected, which was not done when the vehicle was initially loaded. The victim asked the interview subject if he could borrow tools to disconnect the drive shaft and better position the truck on the dolly. The other man agreed, and they drove the trucks to his home. The sequence of events is unclear, but at the time of the incident, the victim was working under the truck, which was parked on a fairly level residential street. The straps securing the front wheels to the dolly were taken off, and the tilt-locking pin that locked down the carrying pan of the dolly was not in place. The victim climbed under the truck to disconnect the drive shaft. The transmission was in the “park” position and the parking brake was engaged, but the victim used no other means to secure the truck from rolling. As soon as the last bolt was removed from the drive shaft the truck began to roll downward, crushing the victim against the pavement. The other man attempted to lift the truck with a jack while his wife called 911. Emergency services arrived on the scene within minutes, extracted the victim and pronounced him dead.

To prevent future occurrences:

  • Employers must provide proper safety training for all employees who transport company vehicles, including how to safely remove drive shafts when towing a vehicle. Employee safety training should include specific instructions on how to safely remove the drive shaft while properly supporting the vehicle. The “park” position of an automatic transmission will only hold while the power train is in place.
  • Employers should ensure all vehicles used to tow other vehicles are equipped with proper tools and wheel chocks. Company trucks used to transport other vehicles should be equipped with all of the tools and equipment necessary to complete the job. In this case, the victim had to drive out of his way to borrow tools to disconnect the drive shaft, which is a routine part of towing a rear-wheel-drive vehicle.

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