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Construction Equipment Visibility

Posted on by David E. Fosbroke, MSF
Diagram showing circumference of visibility behind a construction vehicle
Circumference of visibility behind a construction vehicle

Road construction workers face many hazards on the job. In addition to many of the hazards present on a “traditional” construction site, road workers also need to contend with moving vehicles both in and around the job site. Road construction workers risk injury from construction equipment operating within work zones. From 1995 through 2002, 844 fatal occupational injuries occurred at road construction sites. The majority of these fatalities, 693 (82%) cases, were reported to be transportation incidents. Fatalities involving a ground worker being struck by a vehicle or equipment accounted for 509 (73%) of the transportation incidents. Victims were as likely to be struck by construction equipment (32%) as by highway vehicles (28%). Backing up accounted for at least 50 percent of fatalities from being run over by construction equipment [Pegula 2004].

In 2001, NIOSH began developing and evaluating interventions to reduce the number of ground workers being struck by road construction equipment. While developing evaluation methods, researchers created equipment blind-area diagrams. Although originally developed for use by NIOSH researchers, industry stakeholders suggested that blind-area diagrams can be a valuable training resource for road construction companies and labor unions. This information can be useful to companies when purchasing new vehicles. Additionally, educating drivers and road crew about vehicles’ blind areas can help to reduce related injuries and fatalities.

What Is a Blind-Area Diagram?

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. The blind-area diagrams utilized the procedure outlined in [ISO 5006:2006], “Earth-moving machinery – Operator’s field of view – Test method and performance criteria.” This procedure uses light sources to represent the operator’s eyes and the shadow created by blockages associated with the vehicle, such as door posts and mufflers, to represent the blind area.

NIOSH had blind-area diagrams developed for three different planes: ground level, 900 mm (36 inches) above ground, and 1500 mm (59 inches) above ground. The blind area associated with each plane corresponds to the area at which an object on that plane cannot be seen from the operator’s position. The 900 mm plane was chosen because it represents the height of a construction barrel. The 1500 mm plane is slightly less than the shoulder height of 95 percent of the US adult female population, representing the height at which enough of the head is visible for an operator to recognize a person.

How Can Blind-Area Diagrams Be Used in Training?

Figure 1. Blind-area diagram printed to scale and shown with a scale-model dump truck used during a training exercise.
Figure 1. Blind-area diagram printed to scale and shown with a scale-model dump truck used during a training exercise.

Blind-area diagrams of 38 pieces of construction equipment and 5 pieces of mining equipment are available on the NIOSH website. These diagrams may be downloaded as visual aids for demonstrating the hazards of working around operating equipment to field crews during classroom training sessions or as the basis for toolbox talks held in the field. The diagrams may also be printed at a scale that matches scale models of equipment. This shows the size of blind areas relative to the equipment, as shown in Figure 1.

Blind-area diagrams can also be used to understand how equipment selection can influence the risk to workers around operating equipment. Though only a limited number of blind-area diagrams are available, the website does provide diagrams for a wide range of equipment types. 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.

What Next?

NIOSH published these blind-area diagrams on its website, contributed to worker training programs and trade journal articles, and enlisted roadway construction industry partners to promote the distribution of these diagrams. NIOSH is interested in learning

  • The extent and manner that these diagrams are being used in the roadway construction industry
  • The applicability and extent of use of these diagrams in other industries
  • How these diagrams might be used to promote awareness of blind areas around construction equipment and reduce the number of workers struck by operating construction equipment at construction sites.
  • How best to provide this information to the jobsite

We value your input and assistance in preventing worker injuries. For more information about work zone safety, refer to the highway work zone topic page. For more information about our research in construction safety and health, please refer to our construction program page.

Mr. Fosbroke is a statistician with the Division of Safety Research, Surveillance and Field Investigations Branch. His research focus is on preventing worker injuries in roadway construction work zones and includes secondary data analysis of occupational injuries and illnesses, engineering evaluation of construction equipment visibility, field evaluation of interventions, and partnership with roadway construction industry employers, labor unions, transportation agencies, and academic institutions to promote work zone safety for workers and road users.

Sources

  • Pegula, SG [2004]. Fatal occupational injuries at road construction sites. Monthly Labor Review 12:43-47.
  • ISO 5006:2006 “Earth-moving machinery – Operator’s field of view – Test method and performance criteria.”
Posted on by David E. Fosbroke, MSF

24 comments on “Construction Equipment Visibility”

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    For a number of years the main cause of construction zone injuries and fatalities has been within the construction zone itself, caused by construction equipment. Yet, we focus our enforcement attention on the passing motorists and turn a blind eye on the real hazard. Those collisions involving passing motorists involve construction workers venturing into the traveled portion of the roadway or events occur up-stream as drivers approach the work zone.

    More attention needs to be focused on construction vehicle operation, and on the approach to work zones will less attention to abusive enforcement of passing innocent motorists.

    Though the blog post focuses attention on blind areas around construction equipment and the hazards of workers being struck by construction equipment operating inside the work space of work zones, occupational fatality data confirm that workers also risk fatal injury from motorist vehicles intruding into the work space and workers stepping into the traffic space. Making work zones safer requires attention to work activities in the transition zones (upstream of, or next to the work space) and the operation of construction equipment within the work space, in addition to the movement of traffic through the traffic space.

    I work on a project that is over 7 miles long that crosses 4 roadways in Montgomery county Maryland.We have put in over 1 million hours without a recordable accident.The safety department is extremely proactive in promoting safety awareness.The project is also the most enviromentally sensitive road project in Maryland history.

    After I retired as a Lieutenant commanding our Accident Investigation Section, my wife and I traveled extensively in our motor coach. Upon entering a state, we would receive the customary stern warnings about the speed limits being radar enforced, the need to wear seat belts, and the harsh penalties if a construction worker was killed or injured. One state even threatened a $10,000 fine is a construction worker was killed; there was no mention of the need for that worker to use caution.

    Many times we saw orange barrels at the side of the road, we observed the construction zone warning signs threatening double fines. We would see these markers sometimes over a distance of 100 miles with not a lick of work being done other than the various state patrols issuing double fine citations. I felt I was being hunted by my former fellow officers.

    After I became a traffic safety research, I looked into construction zone collision dilemma. Clearly, there were serious problems within the project area involving construction workers and not passing motorists. I recall one state experienced 43 work zone fatalities since 1942 and of these only seven (7) were caused by a passing motorists. Tar pot explosions seemed to cause deaths many years ago. One fella was sleeping on the garage floor when he was backed over by a dump truck, two workers were crushed under a load of lumber and others were killed when machines rolled over on them. One gal was killed when she was hit by the mirror of a passing truck when filling cracks with tar. She was in the traveled lane of the roadway, speed was not a factor.

    I was in this work zone as a crew was applying asphalt to the road. A worker was raking the edges as a dump truck passed by in back of him. He stepped back to admire his work, into the path of a ‘Pup’ which was being pulled by the dump truck. He was run over and killed.

    I brought brought up my findings years ago on a DOT chat line. Everyone thought my data was interesting and correct, but there was no interest to ‘fix’ the problem.

    I believe there has been so much emphasis placed on affixing blame on the innocent passing motorists that many construction workers do not take the responsibility to be careful. I understand very well the revenues which can be gained through work zone (double fine) speed enforcement. Construction double fines are a cash cow. A profit center for many jurisdiction. Go into any Court House on traffic court day and look at the line.

    If you really want to save lives, we must be a change of focus away from targeting innocent motorists with double fines, and more safety training for the workers themselves. We must target the problem. I doubt that the jurisdictions making money on traffic enforcement will allow you to change the focus.

    Good luck. Our organization has research data, policies, procedures and best practices to solve the problem. Please contact me if you desire a solution to this problem.

    Lt. Terry R. Campbell (Ret)
    Best Highway Safety Practices Institute

    Thank you for bringing this important work to the attention of safety practitioners like myself. I have written an article in response – including some suggestions about how to operationalise blind-area diagrams to save lives and prevent injury.

    Link to my blog ‘safetyinnumbers’
    [http://tinyurl.com/3pszfvz]

    The topic of construction broadly encompasses the issues relevant to the process of road construction and maintenance, including the design, contracting, implementation.

    I believe the most effective way to really integrate this and bring it on board is to create training sessions and really enforce it in the workplace. There is only so much you can really do with diagrams and written instructions – change initiatives often fail with poor implementation.

    I’m a worker at [company name/url removed] so I would have to deal with these issues on a daily basis. That’s my 2¢.

    The use of the blins area diagrams are a good tool to raise awareness of the hazards of being around operating equipment. However, the diagrams cannot illustrate the visibility limitations that occur as amachine operator becomes fatigued or operates in a repetitive manner. It is vital that all “workers on foot” take the steps necessary to alert machine operators of their presence and what activities they plan to perform.

    Also, a vest in a color that does not match the color of the traffic control devices should become the standard.

    Driving safely is important for truck drivers. They are responsible for the safety of the machine, the load and most of all prevent injuries!

    The measurement of blind spots on the items of construction equipment measured by ISO 5006 were designed as part of a program to make manufacturers have their equipment comply with visibility requirements in Countries where the ISO standards are applicable. A U.S. Manufacturer wishing to sell their product in these countries must make their equipment fit the rules using mirrors and/or cameras. The manufacturer can make and sell their products here in the U.S. and does not have to worry about these rules because our government has not chosen to make the ISO standards applicable here. Why is that true?

    Safety when operating anything comes first. They should really take care of blind spots. I feel that they shouldn’t have any when it comes to those machines. Also using rubber tracks will help with traction. I recommend that all operators have them on their machines.

    Construction work is dangerous at the best of times, the heavy equipment is dangerous enough, when added with speeding cars only meters from the work site, you can see why so many road side construction workers have been injured.

    Thank you for posting this blog! Some construction equipment are dangerous, make sure it is safe to use.

    I had no idea that so many fatalities happened every year due to heavy equipment accidents. I think it is so important to teach your crew how to avoid potentially deadly situations, and using the blind-area diagram during training would be really useful. Like you said, workers can understand how the equipment works, and how much blind space there really is. A lot of my workers aren’t able to drive heavy equipment, so they don’t fully understand its danger.

    The most effective way to really integrate this and bring it on board is to create training sessions and really enforce it in the workplace.when added with speeding cars only meters from the work site, you can see why so many road side construction workers have been injured.

    They are responsible for the safety of the machine, the construction equipment are dangerous, make sure it is safe to use about this blog very usefull, able to drive heavy equipment of boom lift machine one of the best safety spec…

    I read your blog posts in the last hour. I really enjoy what you are doing here.Thank you for helping people get the information .

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