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FACEValue: Workers killed after being struck by guardrail

NIOSH’s Fatality Assessment and Control Evaluation Reports

Date of incident: March 31, 2003

Two guardrail installers were killed after being struck by a heavy-duty guardrail that was suspended from a chain attached to the post-pulling jack of a truck-mounted post driver. The victims worked for a fencing company that had been in business for 40 years and employed 50 full-time workers. This was the company’s first fatality. One victim had been employed with the company for five months; the other for three weeks. The crew of six employees was installing the guardrail on a four-lane highway bridge at the time of the incident. While a co-worker was attempting to back up a truck and move the guardrail horizontally, the truck suddenly jerked and began moving backward. The movement of the truck caused the guardrail to hang up briefly on a post, then flip up in the air and strike the two workers, who were positioned approximately 25-30 feet behind the truck, placing bolts on a previously installed guardrail section. After stopping the truck, the driver called 911 on his cell phone and emergency services responded within minutes. One victim was declared dead at the scene. The other was transported by helicopter to a local hospital, where he died later that day.

To prevent future occurrences:

  • Ensure equipment operators have been trained in proper use of the equipment they are assigned to operate in accordance with the manufacturer’s specifications and recommendations. Employers should conduct and document training for equipment operators on proper use of equipment and manufacturers’ safety recommendations. In this case, training should have clarified that the post driver should be used only for pounding and pulling posts, not for lifting materials.
  • Conduct a job safety analysis to determine proper equipment and standard operating procedures that should be followed when moving heavy-duty guardrail sections with mechanized equipment. A JSA should have been conducted on safe methods for lifting loads and positioning of workers during a lift.
  • Develop, implement and enforce a written comprehensive safety program that includes training in hazard recognition and avoidance of unsafe conditions, such as hazards associated with working in close proximity to vehicles and heavy equipment. The workers in this case failed to recognize all of the hazards associated with working in a highway construction zone, working near heavy equipment and working where guardrails were being manually positioned. Training should be provided to help workers recognize all potential hazards present in their workplace.

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