Dump trucks are mainstays of construction sites — and the cause of serious and often fatal injuries.
It’s not uncommon for kids to have endless fun dumping things from plastic dump trucks. They don’t need to worry about tipping the truck over or backing over someone. But real operators do, as these accidents do happen and can be deadly.
Humans make mistakes, and some freak accidents may be inevitable. (Last year one construction employee who was guiding a dump truck into a barricaded construction zone tripped and fell into the truck’s path, with fatal results.) But most accidents are preventable with the right training and safety precautions.
Tip-overs are one of the most common types of dump-truck accident. They can occur when the bed is overloaded, the truck hits unusually uneven terrain or the driver forgets to lower the skip (the box that tilts up and dumps the load) before driving.
To avoid tip-over accidents, operators should know the truck’s load capacity and the gradient it can safely handle (both can be found in the operating manual). They should also make sure to load the skip evenly. And, as with any piece of heavy equipment, they should perform a 360° pre-work walkaround to inspect the equipment and the surroundings.
The Alabama Trucking Association offers up these suggestions to avoid tip-overs:
- Drop loads on even ground or, if on a slope, downhill, which means the bed won't have to be raised as high as it otherwise would.
- Lower the bed if the truck starts to lean.
- Unlatch the tail gate when dumping.
- Make sure the path is clear when backing into a dump area.
- Avoid soft ground if possible.
- Use extra care with "sticky" loads like asphalt or clay, which can adhere to one end or side of bed and create a weight imbalance.
- Line up the truck and trailer before dumping.
- Long beds are more likely to tip the truck than short ones.
Insurance company The Hartford suggests that operators:
- Avoid dumping too close to the edge of a fill.
- Use heated bodies in the winter so the material won’t freeze and stick to the body.
Poor visibility when backing up
The dump truck's skip is a built-in visual impediment to operators. Excessive dust and bad weather can also block the driver's view. These obstacles not only raise the risk of a collision but could endanger the lives of workers.
Drivers can reduce the risk of colliding with a piece of equipment, backing up into a hole or pit or backing over a worker by using a spotter. A spotter uses hand signals and radio communication to alert the driver to any hazards and guide them through the normal activity and traffic of a job site. (The spotter should move well clear of the truck during the dump.)
In addition, trucks should be equipped with flashing lights, a backup alarm or both to alert workers standing near the truck that it is about to move.
If a dump truck operator is untrained or inexperienced, equipment and jobsite personnel are at risk.
Depending on the truck type, dump truck drivers are required to obtain either a Class A or Class B CDL license. As part of the training and certification process, drivers will learn how to safely operate a dump truck as well as monitor and dump loads.
But that doesn’t necessarily mean newly certified drivers will arrive on the jobsite with the experience needed to safely operate a dump truck in every real-world scenario. Hire an operator who has experience with the type of dump truck you use, or pair the new driver with a more experienced one.