Utility Vehicle Safety Toolbox Talk
Utility vehicles, also known as UTVs, are used in many construction sites today as another means of covering greater distances and carrying small loads of materials from one point to another. These vehicles come in many configurations. While they do make construction work more convenient and productive, it is vital that they are used safely.
Increasing UTV Incidents
There are increasing reports of injuries and fatalities relating to the use of these machines. These reports got noticed by the Consumer Product Safety Commission who then recommended changes to the vehicle designs for increased safety. The CPSC received 428 reports of UTV related incidents that occurred between January 2003 and December 2011. There were a total of 826 individuals involved in these reported incidents with 231 of them being fatalities. The majority of fatalities were the result of rollover type crashes.
Unfortunately, not all UTV incidents that occur are reported and categorized correctly, which greatly reduces the impact of the data being reported. It is estimated with the current popularity and use of UTVs that the actual number of incidents far greater than we are aware of.
UTV Safety And Best Practices
The right tool for the job means being sure you have a workhorse UTV and not a recreational ATV (All-Terrain Vehicle). The difference is easy to see as the recreational version does not come equipped with a cargo bed in the rear. A workhorse UTV will usually include things like:
Rear cargo bed with tie-down cleats
25 MPH max speed
Seats for multiple people
Low gears for power/weight
Head and tail lights
The recreational models usually seat fewer people and are built for speed with much less cargo capacity.
Driver Safety Training
Everyone driving UTVs should be trained in the safe operation of the vehicle before setting out for the work to be done. It is tempting to treat UTVs as mini buggies or cars which is incorrect. They do not handle, brake, accelerate, etc… as cars and trucks do. They have a limited turning radius, low clearance under load, and blind spots to be aware of.
Before You Drive
Follow the manufacturer’s directions and maintenance schedule to keep the vehicle safe and sound for use. Proper training with a safety advisor or at least an experienced UTV drive is highly recommended before using UTVs on the construction site. Always make a complete walk-around safety check looking for:
Broken safety belts and latches
Clear field of view
Protective netting and doors
The more you know about the UTV’s in your fleet the safer you will be. Do not try to make the best of a “bad situation”. If something about the UTV is not as it should be or the UTV is the wrong one for the job, find a safer alternative, until repairs can be made.
Use all installed safety equipment on your UTV. All seatbelts, window netting, doors, and locks, and do not allow people to ride or sit where there is not a seat installed. It can be tempting to skip some of these safety mechanisms for a quick ride across the job site. However, the more secure you are in the UTV, the less likely you are to be injured in case of an accident. Always keep your hands, arms, legs, and feet inside the UTV.
Pay Attention to the Ground You Will Be Driving on
UTVs are designed to be driven off-road on softer, reasonably level grades. Sure they can sometimes cover some rugged ground with light loads, but for the work to be done which is hauling, level ground is best. If possible, select a UTV with a ROPS (Roll Over Protection System) for enhanced safety.
The majority of fatalities from UTV accidents come from rollover crashes. UTVs can easily tip and roll if the ground they drive on is too steep, unlevel, or loads become unbalanced. When using a UTV on the construction site be sure to avoid:
Driving diagonally up/downhills
Holes and excavations
Always mark areas of the construction site where the grade is steep or uneven to alert drivers as well as pedestrians. Objects sticking up from the ground or holes should be marked with cones or flags as well.
Best UTV Driving Practices on the Construction Site
Construction sites are always changing and rugged. The speed limit on most construction sites is 25 MPH so mind your speed. Here are some additional best practices for safe UTV:
Always drive straight up or down on hills. This is important for preventing rollover accidents.
Slow down to turn. UTVs characteristically have high centers of gravity and heavy loads change their balance points.
Use 4-wheel drive if available and slow speeds on slippery surfaces to prevent skidding.
Maintain payloads within the weight limits and people limits.
Be sure all payloads are secured for travel.
Increase your braking distance and decrease your speed with heavier payloads.
Secure the UTVs Safely When Work is Done
Be sure to park the vehicle on flat, level ground to avoid movement or rolling. When the vehicle is left unattended, turn off the ignition, set the parking brake, and put it in gear. This will make it much less likely to move on its own and deter joyriders.
Unattended UTVs are tempting targets for joyriders and children are included. To help prevent unauthorized use when UTVs are stored on the construction site, take the keys and if possible use a No-Start control. Many vehicles have a No-Start switch or program that stops the engine from starting and running. This essentially kills the vehicle in place until an authorized user disables the No-Start and uses the right combination of keys.
Redundant safety features like these can keep kids from inadvertently injuring themselves or others in unattended UTVs.
With safe and proper use, UTVs are another productive tool to make work on the construction site more efficient and safer for everyone. UTVs require safe driving and maintenance according to the model in use and the work being done.
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