As a safety professional, you do everything you can to make sure your employees can work safely around mobile equipment on a jobsite. But what about the vehicles of subcontractors or vendors who visit the site?
Whether the workplace is a construction site or a loading dock, your employees will probably have to work around equipment operated by workers employed by a company other than your own.
When those situations occur, you may ask yourself, “Will these subcontractor employees work safely around my people?” and “Is their equipment properly maintained and safe to work around?”
Typically, the first question can be answered by asking to see worker training records or, to a less certain degree, by checking to see if the company has safety violations via the OSHA establishment search tool.
However, the question regarding equipment safety is often either overlooked or seen as more of a hassle to prove since it requires looking at the maintenance records for every piece of equipment in use onsite.
Also, this task could get particularly unwieldy in situations where there’s a general contractor and a host of subcontractors, or a loading dock that’s visited by a multitude of third-party trucking companies.
The question then becomes, “Is ensuring an outside company’s equipment safety worth the effort?”
In short, yes it is. Here’s an example that demonstrates why.
Worker killed by runaway truck with defective parking brake
A 45-year-old construction worker died on a residential worksite when he was struck by a rollaway dump truck, according to a Washington State Fatality Assessment & Control Evaluation (FACE) Program report.
The driver, who was a subcontractor employee using a leased vehicle, didn’t really do anything wrong. Instead, it was because the truck had a defective parking brake, which the company who leased the vehicle knew about.
On Aug. 13, 2022, the worker and the project manager arrived on site to finish the punch list items for a newly constructed home.
One of these items involved pressure washing the home’s long driveway of mud and dirt left behind by the construction activity. While the worker began performing this task, the project manager went to finish painting the side of the garage.
As the worker was pressure washing the driveway, a subcontractor worker from a landscaping business arrived and parked a commercial medium-duty dump truck at the top of the driveway. The truck was loaded with pallets of small pavers, stepping stones and crushed rock. The driveway had a very slight and hardly visible slope.
The driver told the worker he was going to go inside to ask the homeowner where to put the materials. In doing so, the driver left the truck unattended.
Six minutes later, the dump truck rolled down the driveway and struck the worker. No one saw the incident occur, but the driver, homeowner and project manager heard the truck roll away and crash. When they investigated, they found the worker face down in the driveway.
First responders pronounced him dead at the scene.
Subcontractor truck was leased from another contractor
Investigators found that the dump truck:
- was parked in first gear with the emergency brake set
- had an emergency brake that didn’t work, and
- was owned by another landscaping business that leased the truck out to the other company.
They also learned that the truck’s owner:
- didn’t have the required annual Department of Transportation commercial motor vehicle inspection completed on the truck, and
- knew that the emergency brake didn’t work.
The FACE report points out that under Washington State safety requirements, employers must:
- make sure vehicles on construction sites have parking brakes that are maintained in operable condition, engaged properly and inspected for safety before each shift
- not allow operation of commercial motor vehicles that are in such a condition they are likely to cause an accident or breakdown of the vehicle, and
- comply with annual commercial motor vehicle inspection requirements.
4 practices to help prevent this kind of incident
This is all well and good if you, as the employer or safety professional, have control over all of the vehicles and equipment at the worksite.
What happens, as in this case, when you’re dealing with multiple employers? That’s when you need to see the paperwork, according to the FACE report.
FACE investigators recommended that employers in this type of situation should:
- request that subcontractors show their current maintenance and safety inspection records for any commercial vehicles they own or lease that will be used at the worksite
- not allow unsafe vehicles to drive onsite
- advise worksite owners to ask other contractors they hire directly to show safety inspection records for any commercial vehicles before they drive onsite, and
- emphasize the need to prevent hazardous vehicle roll-away incidents onsite.
Depending on the size of the worksite, the amount of subcontractors involved and the amount of vehicles used onsite, looking over all those vehicle inspection records may seem painful.
However, keep in mind that a lot of this equipment will likely be used regularly at the worksite, which means checking those records wouldn’t be a daily task. It would end up working much like keeping up with subcontractor employee training records. You’ll initially have a lot of paperwork to review, but after that first big batch, you’ll only have to worry about it for the occasional new addition or replacement. For situations involving work being done over a longer period of time, then annual or other periodic checks would have to be made as well.
Obviously, not all worksites are the same, and this could be a bigger headache in some situations than in others. However, it’s all worth it if it’ll help your employees go home safe and sound at the end of the day.