Better communication and a little more awareness might have prevented a deadly shop accident. Photo by Jim Park
The story that follows illustrates how a simple lack of communication and a chance second guess resulted in the death of a tire technician. I suspect a scenario similar to this one plays itself out almost daily in repair and service facilities. And it's a reminder that things can still go awry even when proper procedures are followed.
In November 2011, a tire service technician at a garage in Whitehorse, Yukon, was killed when the truck he was working on ran over him. Last week, a Yukon judge found the tire shop, the trucking company and a supervisor at the carrier guilty for not protecting the worker.
Many industries have regulations requiring machinery under repair to be "locked out" to prevent it from being inadvertently started or operated while a service technician is working on it. I'm not aware of any such regulations in North America applying specifically to trucking and trucks under repair, but I know that many shops remove the keys from the ignition switch to prevent such occurrences.
That unfortunately did not help 34-year-old tire technician Denis Chabot.
Published reports say Chabot had completed the repairs to the truck and had informed his supervisor that it was ready to be picked up. Just as the driver showed up to remove the truck from the shop, Chabot decided to make one last check under the truck for stray tools, etc. That's when the driver climbed into the running truck and backed up, crushing Chabot to death beneath the wheels.
The judge said the tire shop did not have lock-out procedures in place to ensure the truck could not be moved. He said the carrier, North of 60 Petroleum, failed to properly train a dispatcher assigned to move the truck, and a company supervisor at Integra Tire looked on while the dispatcher got in the truck without first doing a walkaround.
The Yukon Workers' Compensation, Health and Safety Board laid charges against Integra Tire and North 60 Petro and both supervisors under the Occupational Health and Safety Act. The charges allege that supervisors at both companies failed to properly train their workers.
Hindsight is always 20/20, isn't it?
My question to you, then, is does your fleet maintain some sort of "lock-out" procedure for trucks under repair, or a procedure for ensuring all workers are clear of a truck before moving it?
It's easy to see how this incident might have happened. Bad timing to be sure, but also a lack of foresight on the part of the person assigned to drive the truck from the shop -- or perhaps a blind assumption that the way was clear because someone else told him it was.
There are more details that were reported in the news stories, but it seems to me that if the technician had made his final inspection before telling his supervisor that the work was completed, he might be with us still today. As well, had the driver simply looked under the truck before climbing aboard and rolling it backward, the technician might have been spared.
Also unexplained in the story was how the truck came to be running, as the reports suggest it was. If the technician started it, he never should have gone back under the truck.
I don't think we need more rules requiring red tags and sign-off sheets, but maybe something is necessary. It wouldn't take much to explain to staff never to climb into a truck in the shop with the intention of moving it until there is a spotter in place and an inspection has been completed to ensure there's no hidden hazards like tool boxes resting on the tires or technicians laying beneath trucks.
I hope you have such procedures in place. If not, give it some thought.