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American Towman Magazine Presents the Week in TowingJuly 11 - July 17, 2018

Sometimes Are We Towers to Blame?

Screen2 cb8a3By Randall C. Resch

The recent victory for Canadian towers to use red and blue lighting brings with it huge on-scene responsibilities. Red and blue lighting is simply a small issue on a much bigger problem.

Watch the video at: Evaluate what you'd consider obvious on-scene safety errors. Was on-scene safety effectively set up to provide adequate advanced emergency notice before traffic reached the recovery locations? How and where would you have set up to protect an approaching dangerous curve or other night-lighted scenarios; especially where there's snow and ice?

Look closely to see towers working traffic-side controls and towers walking with their backs to traffic. Then see a highly reflective, uniformed traffic controller move intentionally and directly in front of an approaching semi with expectations the semi will stop immediately at his enthusiastic instructions.

I believe the traffic controller's actions caused the semi's driver to lock the brakes resulting in an uncontrollable skid. (Note: The semi appears in-control until the controller/pedestrian jumped in front.)

From the same video, one tower's words were, "I've been clipped four times over the last six months. In each instance, the circumstances were more or less the same. I was just walking back to my truck and I turned my back for a split second and the car mirror hit my back."
I see his anxiety and I know his apprehension. We know there are better ways.

Motorists don't control a tower's movement; tower's do. This video is a great example of what NOT to do all in one segment. Look to see towers placing themselves in harm's way. Realize that it's not always a motorist's fault because the scene may not have provided adequate traffic control necessary to slow the motoring public down and properly direct their actions.

It's a mathematical certainty that cars and semis can't slow and steer safely when they're not provided ample time to do so. Remember, not all motorists are distracted. If on-scene cones, flares, signage, lighting or traffic direction is problematic and doesn't indicate a clear and obvious path, confusion takes over and it's just as deadly as distracted driving.

Had TIM and industry techniques been employed during these scenarios, perhaps one tower (interviewed) wouldn't have been struck because he would have and should have been on the non-traffic side. That's a perfect-world mentality, but not all towers think that way. These techniques aren't new, but they're especially important and directed to experienced towers still locked in old-school mentalities. Complacency is a tower's worst enemy; what about 1 million plus one scenario that proves to be the fatal mistake?

Tow operator safety and survival crosses all boundaries and may someday have an impact on every tower who goes boots to the ground. This isn't a Canada thing or specific to U.S. highways; my comments are confirmed by hundreds of tow operator fatalities in the history of the industry.

It's easy to blame tow operator strikes on distracted motorists. Haven't we learned by now that working, walking or standing on the white-line side is the fast-track to being killed? The history of operator strikes suggests a change in tower mentality is warranted.

This video demonstrates that our industry needs drastic change in safety and survival tactics. I use this video in my safety courses and safety meetings as an opening visual aide. At pure minimum, it generates great discussion towards safety and survival.

Isn't there room for tow operator improvement?
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