Operating equipment without a clear line of sight is never a good idea, as one operator found out when his front-end loader struck a tractor-trailer and killed its driver.
U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) investigators found that the employer failed to ensure that equipment operators drove with their buckets in a position that didn’t block their line of sight.
Driver crushed by truck which was struck by front-end loader
On March 9, 2023, Don Reynolds, a 60-year-old delivery truck driver employed by AMS Co., was making a stop at the Texas Lime Company Plant & Quarry mine in Johnson County, Texas.
Reynolds was hauling coke, a solid material leftover from oil refining. He made multiple deliveries of the material to the mine earlier that morning. The mine’s front-end loader operator would push the coke into place once the load was dumped at the unloading area.
At 1:50 p.m., the front-end loader operator was called to another area of the mine shortly after Reynolds made a delivery. As he was leaving the area, the operator elevated the front-end loader’s bucket as he traveled forward to clean out any remaining coke. He felt the front-end loader abruptly stop and saw that he had struck the rear of Reynold’s trailer.
The operator left the cab of the front-end loader and found Reynolds under the truck’s left rear dual wheels.
Emergency responders arrived on scene at 2 p.m. Reynolds was pronounced dead at the scene at 2:01 p.m.
Manufacturer warning labels weren’t followed
MSHA investigators could find no mechanical problems with either vehicle that would have contributed to the incident.
What they did find was a warning label that stated, “When driving the machine or performing operations, always keep a safe distance from people, structures, or other machines to avoid coming into contact with them.” The label also told operators to keep the bottom of the bucket 16 to 20 inches above the ground when traveling on level ground. Another warning label stated, “Improper operation can cause serious injury or death. Read manual and labels before operation.”
Investigators determined that the mine failed to ensure that operators maintained proper line of sight while operating equipment, as required by the warning labels.
Equipment shouldn’t be moving if the view is obstructed
To avoid a similar incident, the mine retrained all of its mobile equipment operators on maintaining line of sight while operating equipment.
While this incident involved heavy mobile equipment at a mine, it’s a good idea to remind forklift and heavy equipment operators in any industry that they shouldn’t be moving if their view is obstructed. Driving without a clear line of sight could lead to life-changing injuries for, or even the death of, a co-worker.