When my fellow IB partner Steve Lombardi asked me to join in a series of blogs about workers being accidentally backed over by fellow workers, I had no idea that the timing would be so ripe. Unfortunately, last week here in Wilmington, New Hanover county, North Carolina, we experienced such a tragic accident. Jimmy Lee Phillips, a long-time DOT worker, was killed after being struck by a backhoe operated by a fellow DOT worker. Mr. Phillips was standing behind the backhoe when it backed up and crushed him. The accident is still under investigation, but there is no doubt that Mr. Phillips’ family is left with many questions.
One has to wonder if spotters were being used. Operators of heavy machinery often have their vision blocked, particularly in backing up. Were there workers who were supposed to be standing guard to prevent such accidents? Did the backhoe have an alarm that sounded when it was operating in reverse? Did the backhoe have such a mechanism, but it didn’t work this time or had been dismantled? We often make jokes about such alarms, but they can save lives. Were workers given proper instructions and guidance as to the work that was going to take place and how the machinery would be moving about? Was there a proper work plan to ensure that workers would not be working in an area that was dangerously close to the backhoe? Workers on these types of job sites work in very confined spaces. Safety precautions are absolutely necessary to prevent such accidents.
Our hearts go out to the family of Jimmy Lee Phillips and to the operator of the backhoe as he undoutedly feels much anguish due to the tragic consequences of this accident. Hopefully this accident will serve as a wake-up call for workers and supervisors that proper safety precautions are necessary and equipment needs to be checked prior to each use to ensure that safety mechanisms are working properly.