Everyone has had the importance of wearing your seatbelt drilled into their heads. Statistically, you are 50% more likely to survive an accident while wearing a seatbelt than when you aren’t. But what about on construction equipment? How much can seatbelts help you when you are not traveling at highway speeds? Is wearing seatbelts with heavy machinery that important?
For many, the slow speeds that machines operate seem to justify not wearing seatbelts while on the job site. However not wearing your seatbelt while operating machinery often proves to be a fatal mistake. Although, they don’t reach higher speeds, operating heavy machinery is not without dangers, among the most prominent is rollovers.
Most machines do have a protective system equipped called a Roll Over Protection Structure (ROPS), which is basically a tall metal Frame that sits behind the operator. This prevents the machine from continuing to roll over on itself and keeps the operator from being crushed in case of a rollover. Though they do not prevent rollovers themselves, they will keep the operator safe during an accident. ROPS are highly effective if operators are wearing their seatbelt during the rollover.
During a rollover, the ROPS protects the secured operator from being crushed on the machine. However, when the operator is not secured by a seatbelt, they are thrown off the machine and crushed by the machine, often by the ROPS itself. In a study done, focusing on pneumatic tire rollers, OSHA studied over 50 cases of rollover. In the one case where both the ROPS and seatbelt had been removed, the operator was crushed by the machine. In 6 cases in which the machine did not have ROPS installed, all resulted in fatalities. 14 of 19 accidents, in which ROPS was installed, but the operator was not wearing a seatbelt, resulted in fatalities. In the 5 cases studied in which the machine was equipped with ROPS and the seatbelt was worn, none resulted in workers deaths.
Just like in cars, wearing your seatbelt while operating heavy equipment is vital to your safety. Make sure you, and others around you, take this extra step and keep your self from tragedy. As always good luck and Stay safe
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