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Working Around a Backhoe Loader: Learning from Tragedy


New Jersey – Tragically, a day laborer was fatally struck in the head by the bucket of a backhoe loader while helping two other workers build a concrete retaining wall. The 34-year-old worker was standing near the backhoe loader when the operator rotated the boom without checking to ensure the swing area of the boom was clear. The bucket pinned the worker’s head against the stack of concrete blocks near by, causing sever blunt force injuries and killing him instantly.

The worker was not wearing a hard hat, a reflective vest, or any other required PPE when the incident occurred. Tragically, it was his first day on the job. Another laborer called the job site foreman and notified him that he was unable to work that day, asking if his brother could work instead. The foreman agreed. Without training or proper introduction to the risks and safety methods associated with the work at hand, the individual was assigned tasks in broken Spanish by the foreman. The lack of training, absence of the necessary PPE, and insufficient communication should have been enough for the foreman to halt the work until the risks were resolved.

Four guidelines for working around a backhoe loader:

  1. No one should enter the full swing area of the boom. The operator’s vision of this area can be limited.
  2. If a worker must enter the swing danger area, eye contact as well as confirmed communication with the operator must be established.
  3. The operator should not move the backhoe until all workers have cleared the area
  4. All employees working around a backhoe should always work facing the backhoe. Always monitor the movement and operations of the backhoe and always consider the machine as a continuous threat.

For training or clarification on the safety requirements or guidelines on backhoe loaders, feel free to contact The Integrated Group at 425-822-8500 or

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