Accidental Contact With Paving Machine Control Lever

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Thomas J. Cocchiola, PE, CSP ::::

Case Synopsis:  A paving machine operator sustained injuries resulting in a partial leg amputation after he parked the machine, decelerated its engine and placed the directional controls in neutral.  The operator intended to dismount the machine and wait for the rest of the paving crew to finish the last pass.  He fell while dismounting and accidentally contacted the directional control levers, which caused the paving machine to lurch unexpectedly.  The paving machine continued moving backward and ran over the operator’s leg.

Expert Analysis:  Operators are required to push or pull a pair of directional control levers in order to propel and steer the paving machine.  The two lever configuration was a relatively new design modification.  In fact, the manufacturer had not yet revised the operating manual to include the two lever configuration; the manual furnished with the incident paving machine depicted a joystick and a steering wheel instead of the two levers.  An engineering analysis demonstrated that the two lever control configuration exposed workers to hazards that were effectively safeguarded with the previous design.  Older paving machines had a neutral lock to prevent inadvertent machine movements if someone accidentally contacted the joystick; the directional control levers on the incident paving machine were unprotected from accidental contact.  The engineering analysis concluded that the failure of the manufacturer to incorporate a practical and proven safeguard (neutral lock, detent, control sequencing) caused the machine to move and injure the operator when he accidentally contacted the control levers.

Results: The case was resolved before trial.

 

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