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Research diagrams could help keep road crews safer (4/5)

April 5, 2011
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A type of diagram created by NIOSH for use in its research could help road construction companies and labor unions save workers’ lives, according to David E. Fosbroke, MSF, a statistician with the Division of Safety Research, Surveillance and Field Investigations Branch.

Fosbroke notes that in addition to the hazards present on a “traditional” construction site, road workers also risk injury from construction equipment operating within work zones.

Of the 844 work-related deaths that occurred at road construction sites from 1995-2002, 82% were due to transportation incidents, with 73% of those involving a ground worker being struck by a vehicle or equipment. Fatalities caused by highway vehicles tend to be the more publicized, but statistics show that victims are more likely to be struck by construction equipment.

Fosbroke says “blind-area” diagrams developed as part of NIOSH efforts to reduce the number of workers being struck by construction equipment could prove a valuable training resource, used to educate drivers and road crew about vehicles’ blind areas.

“A blind-area diagram is best described as a drawing that depicts the area around a vehicle or piece of equipment that cannot be seen from the operator's position,” writes Fosbroke, on NIOSH’s science blog the NIOSH science blog.

NIOSH developed blind-area diagrams for three different planes; ground level, one representing the height of a construction barrel; and a third at the shoulder height of 95 percent of the US adult female population (the height at which enough of the head is visible for an operator to recognize a person).

NIOSH has made blind-area diagrams of 38 pieces of construction equipment and 5 pieces of mining equipment available on its website. These diagrams can be downloaded and used as visual aids during classroom training of field crews to demonstrate the hazards of working around operating equipment. They can also be printed at a scale that matches scale models of equipment.

In addition, Fosbroke says that blind-area diagrams can be used by companies to assess worker risk during their equipment.

“Though only a limited number of blind-area diagrams are available, the website does provide diagrams for a wide range of equipment types,” he says. “Studying these diagrams can help construction companies understand the primary obstructions (e.g., mufflers, engine cowlings) creating blind areas. When considering equipment for purchase, companies can use this understanding to select equipment that provides operators with the best possible visibility.”

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