Construction Worker is Crushed While Working With Unsafe Equipment

Human Factors Expert Witness

This case involves a worker who was severely injured after being crushed between the tag axles of a concrete truck and a piece of material handling equipment. At the time of the concrete truck’s purchase, the axels were noticed to be unreasonably dangerous and the truck was not delivered with any necessary instructions or manuals. In addition, the owner of the truck did not provide proper training to the worker or his fellow operators. A human factors engineer was sought to opine on the readability of the warnings on the tag axels, as well as the expected use and general human factors principles in this case.

Question(s) For Expert Witness

  • 1. Please briefly describe your human factors experience as it relates to accidents such as the one in this case.
  • 2. Can you speak to how an operator would reasonably be expected to use these machines and interpret warnings? Do you have experience with this type of analysis?

Expert Witness Response E-001121

I have a graduate degree in human factors with extensive experience in construction-related accidents. I am a registered engineer in many states, and I’ve handled multiple cases involving injuries related to, and caused by, construction equipment. These cases have involved cranes, excavators, and concrete haulers. My previous experience includes warnings, operations, evaluation of equipment manuals, and operator experience. I have previously testified in all these areas.

My initial thoughts are that this case involves many facets of human factors including warnings, perception, supervision, organizational structure, OSHA, safety, and engineering. Specifically, this case has many applications to the Human Factors Accident Classification System (HFACS) that evaluates accidents and injuries from the top down — from organizational structure to supervisory issues and training, as well as employer/employee issues. Organizational structure and training are likely significant contributing factors in this case. It is also likely that the manufacturer may be involved regarding training, certification, and the quality/content of the equipment manual(s). My previous experience has revealed that these manuals may be poorly written and difficult for construction workers to comprehend because they are written for employees with education beyond high school and some level of college. This was confirmed through usability testing and research. The operator must clearly understand the full operational controls and limits of the equipment, he must be properly trained/certified in accordance with industry standards and adequate operating experience, and must be capable of understanding the equipment manuals and the limitations of his experience. Based on the catastrophic injury that occurred it sounds as if many of these shortfalls clearly occurred at multiple levels within the organizational structure.

 

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