- In 19 accidents, machines were equipped with a ROPS (Roll-Over Protection Structure), but operators were not wearing seat belts. Fourteen fatalities resulted—many of which occurred when the operator was ejected or jumped from the machine and was pinned under the ROPS. 14 out of 19 were fatal.
- Seven accidents involved machines without a ROPS and run by operators not wearing a seat belt. Seven fatalities. 7 out of 7 were fatal.
- Five accidents involved machines fitted with a ROPS and operated by workers wearing seatbelts. No fatalities. 0 out of 5 were fatal.
The report draws a fundamental conclusion: “If the machines involved in these accidents had been ROPS equipped, and if the operators had been wearing seat belts, the likelihood of the operator’s survival would have increased significantly.”
The industry has long installed these items to satisfy standards established by the Society of Automotive Engineers, International Standards Organization, and OSHA’s General Duty Clause, which obligates employers to provide a place of employment free from “recognized hazards” likely to cause harm. A ROPS works by preventing the machine from tipping more than 90 degrees, meaning that it will fall onto its side but no further.
According to OSHA, rollover accidents involving ride on compactors are most likely to occur near the edge of a slope, such as a ditch that falls away from the side of a road. One manufacturer advises that a minimum of two-thirds the drum’s width remain on a flat, solid surface when operating near the edge of a slope.
Operators also need to know that a roller’s center of gravity moves outward when the machine articulates/turns. If the roller is operating near the edge of a slope on its right side, then steering to the left in order to move away from the slope will momentarily shift the machine’s center of gravity to the right—toward the slope.
Manufacturers agree that compacting slopes is best done operating the machine up and down the face—not across the face. If the roller must traverse across a slope, the manufacturer will give a maximum angle (or slope percentage) that shouldn’t be exceeded. Remember, a moving machine, with its vibratory system active and perhaps being steered across loose material, might tip at a lesser angle.
For single-drum soil compactors with large drive wheels at the rear, maintaining proper air pressure in the tires is critical. Unequally inflated tires serve to destabilize the machine, a condition that might be magnified when the machine is operating at an angle.
Radio- or infrared-based remote-control trench rollers allow operators to avoid entering unstable material or the confines of a trench. If, however, a worker must enter an excavation then OSHA regulations apply and include these basic provisions:
- A competent person must inspect the excavation and determine it safe to enter
- Excavations more than 5 feet deep require a protective system (trench-shield)
- Safe means of access (ladder) must be provided for excavations more than 4 feet deep
- Excavations more than 4 feet deep can accumulate exhaust gases, such as carbon monoxide
- Check the area for debris and trip hazards before beginning work
- Follow the manufacturer’s recommendations for compacting uphill
The safety features of the equipment will only work if used as directed. Many types of equipment have roll over protection, or ROPS. A ROPS does nothing if you are not buckled in. Many people think that they can jump clear of the machine, but in reality, they jump downhill, with the machine following them. Operators who jump out risk being pinned or run over by the machine.