As a stranded driver, there is no more welcome sight during a car breakdown than the arrival of a tow truck. Yet most people are unaware of the dangers these drivers face. Tow truck drivers’ risk of death on the job is almost 15 times greater than other industries in the United States.
Many occupations, including construction and law enforcement were already known from occupational research studies to have higher than average risks. Yet the first major study to review the motor vehicle towing industry had sobering findings about the significantly high injury and death rate that point to the need for better prevention and safety measures to protect workers.
Study on Dangers of Towing Industry
The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) reported this year on the results of the first large scale study of the towing industry. The research, from national occupational records, covered the years 2011 through 2016. During that time, 191 towing operators were fatally injured on the job. This translates to an annual rate of 42.9 fatalities per 100,000 full-time employees. For comparison, the rate for all other industries was just 2.9 per 100,000.
Motor vehicle-related occurrences, often struck-by vehicle incidents, accounted for 64 percent of the deaths. White males between the ages of 45 and 54 years accounted for the majority of deaths and more than half took place in small companies with fewer than 10 employees.
The research found that nonfatal injury rates were also disturbingly high and comprised 6,400 injuries and illnesses. Many of these were sprains, strains, and muscle tears resulting from exertion while manipulating on and underneath towing equipment. This industry rate per 100,000 workers was also very high at 204 – more than double the rate for other occupations.
What can be done to better protect those who earn their living from operating towing equipment on American roads? The study points to an imperative need to do more. It starts with best safety practices, which employers have a requirement to implement for their employees. The occupation already involves assisting with vehicles that can often be in difficult or dangerous roadside or off-road locations, but every employer can take steps to communicate and require safety precautions. For a tow truck worker injured on the job, it is strongly recommended to consult an experienced workers’ compensation lawyer to ensure that your injury and lost wages are covered and you can get the treatment you need.
There are safety steps that drivers can take and that employers should enforce to help reduce dangers. Drivers should be provided adequate reflective safety attire and personal protective equipment like gloves and eye and head protection. In case of potential fuel leaks, drivers should have non-flammable flares to alert other drivers. When entering and departing the vehicle or truck beds, handrail usage and stepping onto the running board is essential to avoid falling into the roadway. In addition, companies must ensure that the towing weight is posted and that the cables and winches are maintained and in good condition. Those that earn a living on our roadways have a right just as any other worker to a safe and secure workplace.
Bucks County Workers’ Compensation Lawyers at Freedman & Lorry, P.C. Advocate on Behalf of Injured Workers
The dedicated work accident lawyers at Freedman & Lorry, P.C. are here to protect your rights when you experience a serious work-related injury. We represent clients in Philadelphia, Cherry Hill, New Jersey and across Pennsylvania, including the areas of Bucks County and Delaware County. We also have offices in Pinehurst, North Carolina to assist our clients in the south. Contact us by completing our online form or call us at 888-999-1962 for a free consultation with an experienced Bucks County workers’ compensation lawyer.