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DHR - SAFETY ALERT MEMO 96-03

DATE: February 9, 1996

INCIDENT TYPE: Close Call

LOCATION: District 5

TYPE OF WORK ACTIVITY: Spill Clean Up

THE ACCIDENT: At approximately 12:10 on February 7, 1996, a transfer truck and trailer spilled its load of base rock on SB Hwy 101. This spill occurred on a down hill, right curve portion of the Cuesta Grade near San Luis Obispo. The San Luis Obispo Maintenance crew was dispatched to clean up the spill. The CHP was at the spill location running traffic breaks to slow traffic through the area until the Maintenance crew could arrive. The majority of the spill was deposited in the #1 lane and along the concrete barrier rail. The Maintenance crew closed the #1 lane and began clean-up of the spilled base rock. At approximately 13:15, while the clean-up operation was underway, a tractor-trailer that was unable to slow and negotiate the traffic control violated the lane closure. The tractor-trailer entered the closure at approximately 40 - 50 MPH and struck the left rear of the shadow vehicle. It continued along the median barrier, towards the Maintenance Supervisor who was on foot between the shadow vehicle and the median barrier. He jumped over the barrier rail just in time to avoid being struck. The tractor-trailer veered to the right, struck the rear of a CT loader, and continued across the #2 lane, coming to rest on the unpaved right shoulder. Fortunately, there were no serious injuries in this accident. The shadow truck operator and the loader operator were transported to a local medical facility, treated and released. The driver of the tractor-trailer was not injured.

CONCLUSIONS: Initial reports indicate that the brakes on the tractor-trailer that violated the work zone and on the transfer truck-trailer that spilled its load were out of adjustment. The driver of the errant tractor-trailer did have the presence of mind to blow his horn as a warning when he violated the work zone.

Facing traffic and the availability of an escape route in this case prevented a serious or possibly fatal injury to the maintenance supervisor. The use of seat belts by the shadow truck and loader operators prevented serious injuries to them.

RECOMMENDATIONS: Always face traffic and be alert for possible escape routes. This accident occurred in a full closure with a shadow/barrier vehicle. Despite our best efforts, vehicles can penetrate our work zones. Protect yourself by using your eyes and ears to listen and watch for errant vehicles.

HEADQUARTERS OFFICE OF SAFETY AND HEALTH (916) 227-2640

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