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Street Sweeper Accidents: Top 5 Causes

Street Sweeper Accidents: Top 5 Causes

Accidents Involving Street Sweepers

Street sweepers have been cleaning up after people and mother nature for hundreds of years. Though the need for clean streets hasn’t changed much over time, the methods that we use to clean those streets have. Originally, roads were swept clean by hand, and debris was loaded into dustpans and then dumped into the back of horse-drawn carts to be disposed of. 

We now used advanced mechanical sweepers today. This technological advancement allows city dwellers to feel clean and operators reduce street sweeper accidents.

However, there are still some dangers that come from operating street sweepers. For instance, a man last year was killed after his street sweeper crushed him. Despite the gravity of these accidents, You can significantly reduce the likelihood of injury or death if you understand and practice safe operating principles.

Why Are Street Sweepers Important?

Before we jump into the causes of street sweeper accidents, let’s first dive into what street sweepers are and why they are important. 

Simply said, street sweeping maintains the cleanliness of your pavement. It doesn’t matter if it’s a parking lot, a building site, or a standard street—the area needs to be dirt- and debris-free. Slip-and-fall accidents along with other hazards on walking surfaces can be avoided with a clean surface. Another reason why street sweepers are important is because people value cleanliness; residents appreciate a tidy neighborhood and shopping centers.

Moreover, cleaning the streets removes dangerous contaminants that pollute the environment. If these chemicals are allowed to remain on the streets, they will infiltrate the storm drains, our streams, and our waterways. In fact, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has designated street sweeping as a sustainable management technique for reducing stormwater runoff.

Top 5 Most Common Causes of Street Sweeper Accidents

Failure To Properly Inspect & Maintain Street Sweeper

Performing routine inspections cuts costs and reduces injury on the jobsite. Operation productivity is only as good as the equipment you are using and it won’t get very far with damaged equipment and employees who are unable to work as a result of an accident. 

Failure of the horn, brakes, or any other machine component could result in an accident. A collision or malfunctioning system could also result in harm or fatality.

Performing regular inspections and maintenance reduces the risk of system failures, which ultimately reduces the likelihood of an employee getting injured on the job. Maintenance and inspections are preventive safety measures you can take to avoid workplace accidents.

Lack of Proper Safety Training

Accidents are inevitable in the workplace, and a lack of street sweeper training can significantly worsen unsafe situations. Employees that regularly use machinery understand the value of training. A worker with inadequate training endangers himself and those around him. Although operating large machinery may seem simple, there are many risks involved. Case studies have repeatedly shown how much impact safety training has on employee safety in the workplace.

Lack of safety training: Machines are extremely dangerous and operating one always necessitate some sort of training. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) requires employers to provide their employees with a safe and healthful workplace. The best and most efficient way to do this is by providing safety training for their employees.

Inadequate machine training: Understanding how a machine works is critical before using it on your own. Someone is bound to get hurt if an employee does not know how to properly navigate out of a sticky situation.

Distracted Driving & Truck Accidents

When you use a cell phone while driving heavy machinery, you take your mind off the machine, your hands off the wheel, and your eyes off the road. No phone conversation or text message is worth jeopardizing your life in this way. Distracted heavy equipment operators present a risk not just to themselves, but also to others around them. Operators can only use cell phones under specific circumstances which include:

  • While making an emergency report.
  • When parked on the road’s shoulder.
  • While stopped due to regular traffic being interrupted with the machine in neutral or park.

Distracted Driving Accident Case

Stephen was operating a street sweeper on his way to an area across town where he was assigned to sweep. While in transit, he decided to respond to a text his friend had sent him earlier in the day. Half a mile from the sweeping location, Stephen ran a red light and crashed into the side of a small car, killing the two people inside. He also sustained serious injuries and was taken to the hospital for treatment.

It is important to understand what he did wrong in this situation and what caused the accident. Had Stephen not taken his attention away from the road, he would have seen the red light and been able to stop, avoiding the situation altogether. 

Diminished Reaction Time

It’s important that employees are able to remain alert. Being alert allows employees to be able to identify potential hazards and understand how to deal with them effectively. Employees should also be aware of their physical state in a safe manner. Reaction time is the amount of time it takes to respond to a potentially dangerous event. In most circumstances, the faster employees respond, the lesser your risk of being injured or killed on the job.

Accidents Involving Fatigue

Fatigue is the result of prolonged mental and/or physical exhaustion. It can impair both the mind and the body, making it harder to stay attentive and make quick, appropriate decisions.

Fatigue can decrease hand-eye coordination, impede focus, and hamper logical reasoning. It can also cause people to fall asleep at work. This can endanger operators, other persons nearby, and expensive equipment. Operating heavy equipment often requires continuous, focused concentration. This can, in turn, lead to tiredness even over a relatively short shift.

Driving Under the Influence

According to the U.S. Department of Labor, drug and alcohol use in the workplace causes 65% of on-the-job workplace accidents. Unexpectedly, alcohol is present in about 16% of emergency room patients who have been injured at work.

A drunk or hungover person will have lower productivity and awareness, which sets the stage for workplace accidents. It is important to note that being under the influence can include over-the-counter medicine, such as allergy medication, that can make individuals groggy or slow. 

Traffic Can Lead to Collisions

Traffic collisions are one of the biggest causes of accidents and fatalities when it comes to street sweeper operations. Traffic accidents can include collisions with: 

  • Other vehicles or machinery
  • Buildings or objects
  • Stationary equipment
  • Pedestrians

All of these types of collisions can lead to injury or death in the workplace. It is important to always be aware of the traffic laws you are required to follow while operating a street sweeper. 

Other Street Sweeper Accident Causes

Poor Visibility

Accidents occur when street sweeper operators are unable to see what’s going on around them. Constantly check your mirrors to reduce the likelihood of hitting other vehicles, pedestrians, or animals. You can also install convex mirrors or other aids to reduce blind spots and increase visibility.

Going Too Fast

Sometimes we get impatient and like to whip around corners. Street sweepers can’t make sharp turns quickly, so always take corners slowly to avoid a rollover. Spending an extra five seconds to turn could save your life.

Backing Up

Watch out for pedestrians in your blind spots when backing up, and always go slowly. Consider installing a backup camera since blind spots tend to be worse in the rear.

The Different Types of Street Sweeper Accidents

Now that you know what causes street sweeper accidents, we’ll discuss different types of accidents that could occur if you do not take proper safety precautions.

Struck-By Machine

Striking pedestrians or other workers with the machine is one of the major sources of injuries and death involving sweepers. 

You should always use when reversing or maneuvering the sweeper. There are many blind spots on the machine, particularly at the rear, that make it easy to strike workers or pedestrians nearby. 

Struck-By Debris

Though it is rare to see a death occur from striking pedestrians with debris, injuries are a common result. Running over branches, larger rocks, or large chunks of garbage with the side brooms can sometimes fling the object out from the brush and into people standing nearby. Struck-by debris accidents can affect pedestrians, other workers, and property, such as cars or buildings. 

These kinds of accidents are easy to avoid. Being attentive on the job and knowing how your machine will handle certain debris and objects can make all the difference.


Rollover accidents are easy to avoid and generally happen under certain circumstances. Here are some of the circumstances where a sweeper truck may tip over:

  • Turning or manuevering too quickly
  • Tugning too sharply during operations
  • Making abrupt turns or maneuvers while going downhill 
  • Uneven or icy road conditions

When operating a sweeper, you should move as slow as practical. This is especially true when making turns. You should also be constantly aware of your surroundings and avoid deep holes or irregularities in the road.

Street Sweeper Health Hazards

As previously said, street sweepers play a crucial part in maintaining city health and hygiene. However, street sweeping exposes operators to a multitude of hazards, including:

  • Dust
  • Bioaerosols
  • Volatile organic matter
  • Mechanical stress

Many of the aforementioned conditions render street sweeper operators vulnerable to occupational illnesses. Among the occupational illnesses discovered in these workers are:

  • Respiratory system issues
  • Irritable eyes
  • Cuts and wounds
  • Skin infections