An accident in which a construction worker was pinned beneath a highway paving machine in the US this week raises questions on safety measures surrounding infrastructure work.
While working on a highway construction project in Vancouver, Washington, Granite Construction worker Justin Pitts was hit by and pinned beneath the machine for approximately 45 minutes until a fire rescue team could free him.
While original reports suggested the paving machine fell onto Pitts a second time after it was lifted, Granite Construction says such claims are false. The construction company added that initial attempts to free Pitts using additional machinery were unsuccessful, necessitating the efforts of a fire crew.
Pitts is reported to still be in a critical condition.
While both Washington State and the construction company have pledged to thoroughly investigate the cause of the incident, one of the victim’s coworkers has raised doubts as to whether a machinery ‘buddy system’ was properly implemented. According to reports, these accidents are often avoided when coworkers ‘spot’ each other, particularly in when machinery is being moved.
The paving machine itself was reversing when it pinned Pitts at 3.30 in the morning.
According to the Washington Department of Transportation, the highway will remained closed in sections ‘for some time’ in order to investigate the incident and continue works.
In workplace incidents such as these, the obvious culprits are machinery fault and issues with construction practices. Teamwork is another key component to creating a healthy and safe workplace, especially when it comes to infrastructure projects.
According to the research paper ‘Identifying and Reducing Worker, Inspector and Manager Fatigue in Rapid Renewable Environments’ by the Transportation Research Board, teamwork is an especially relevant aspect in delivery safe and successful highway projects. The researchers said fatigue, in particular, is ‘considered serious and in need of further investigation and solutions’, particularly when it comes to highway renewal projects with tight deadlines that may require workers to work long hours.
As the accident that has left Pitts in criticial condition investigated further, both the construction company and state department will be able to make amendments moving forward in order to avert further incidents of this nature in the future.