How to avoid deadly roller compactor rollovers on jobsites with slopes or embankments


A construction worker was killed in an accident in Florida on August 21, when the roller he was operating slipped down a berm and rolled on top of him, killing him.

Although compactors feature a number of design advantages that boost stability, such as a low center of gravity, wide base and low speed, compactor operators are always at risk for rollover accidents when the jobsite includes inclines or embankments. If the machine rolls over, the operator is at serious risk for injury or death. Here are some tips to prevent rollovers, and to minimize injuries in the event your compactor tips over.

Use the right machine

Before you begin work, make sure your compactor is equipped with both ROPS and seat belts. If the seat belts are worn, damaged or too small, request they be replaced before the machine is put into use. Always wear the seat belt when the compactor is in motion; in the event of a rollover, the seat belt will prevent you from being ejected from the machine and then pinned or crushed.

Wear a hard hat as well as your seat belt

Even if you’re inside an enclosed cab, you should wear a hard hat at all times. If the machine tips over, the hard hat will offer protection if your head strikes a hard surface inside the cab. In the event of a rollover, try to minimize injury by pulling your knees and and elbows in close to your body, holding on firmly and leaning away from the impact. Resist the urge to try and jump from the machine; jumping greatly increases your risk of being crushed by the ROPS.

Watch your edges

When working near a slope, position the compactor so your seat is parallel to the edge. This will allow you to maintain constant visibility with the leading edge of the slope so you can ensure you don’t get close enough to allow the roller or wheels to slip off the flat surface onto the embankment. If you get too close to an edge, stop the machine, apply the parking brake and get off the machine to assess whether or not you can go forward, or if reversal is a better option.

Drive the correct way on slopes

If you’re compacting on an embankment or slope, avoid sidehill travel. According to the Association of Equipment Managers’ roller compactor safety guidelines, you should always drive up and down the slope to prevent tipping or sliding. Operate the compactor at a low speed, and never attempt to change gears while traveling on a grade. When it’s time to park the compactor, always park on level ground when possible. If near an incline, position the machine at right angles to the slope, making sure the compactor is on firm ground with no danger of sliding. Do not leave the machine until you apply the parking brake.