Construction workers driving concrete mixers should have mandatory training to reduce rollover incidents and prevent potential fatalities, an expert has warned.
Mark Cowan, director of transport, logistics and concrete at the British Aggregates Association (BAA) told Construction News that it was “only a matter of time” before a serious rollover accident occurred.
Cowan, who started recording rollover numbers in 2015 due to a lack of official data, said there had been numerous “near misses” in recent years – accusing the industry of continuing to “totally ignore” the issue.
He explained that a lack of training was putting the safety of construction workers at risk and threatened to cost companies hundreds of thousands of pounds in damage costs. He also called for a training standard to be introduced.
Warnings about the importance of training follow the death of a concrete mixer driver in 2016, who collided with three parked cars on the A4063 in Bridgend, Wales, after losing control. They also follow a rollover on the A16 in East Keal, Lincolnshire, on 8 February where a mixer crashed into a residential property.
Data collected by UK Truckmixer Training – part of the industry training group MinTrain – suggest that there have been more than 130 reported rollover incidents in the UK since 2015 – with almost a dozen reported in the last 13 weeks alone.
However, Cowan said the actual number of incidents was likely to be much higher.
“Over the last five years there have been about 130 [rollovers]. In the last 12-13 weeks, [we’ve been alerted] to 11 rollovers in the UK. But not every rollover is recorded and not every one is posted on social media,” he said.
“So, for the true figure, you can probably double that number and add a few more after that.”
Cowan said that the three primary causes of rollovers are “speeding, inexperience and complacency”, adding that most incidents came down to a “lack of training”. But he stressed that it was an issue not just affecting the UK.
A report on vehicle rollover published by the Institute of Road Transport Engineers in 2020 concluded that rollovers can be “prevented by educating and improving the skills of drivers”.
It also found that training was “fundamental to drivers understanding the risks and what they could do to minimise them”.
Despite this, the only requirement at present for a construction worker to be able to drive a mixer is that they hold a heavy goods license (HGV).
Cowan said: “The average cost of a rollover in the UK at the minute is about £200,000 – you’re looking at £130-140,000 for the vehicle alone. Everything points towards trying something [to implement a standard of training], but for some reason the industry is very resistant.
“I’m not saying that’s every company. Some companies do a little bit of in-house training but there’s never been a standard. So, it’s all inherited knowledge – nobody knows if that’s the right training or how they measure it.”
He added: “It’s a specialised role requires specialist training – a demonstration of competence – and it needs to be a standard throughout the industry. It shouldn’t matter which company you work for, that standard should be established.”
In 2010, five people were injured after a concrete mixer driving across a bridge in Surrey fell onto a passenger train travelling from Guildford to Waterloo.
The Health and Safety Executive was approached for comment.
A BBC report on the East Keal incident in February included startling video footage, below: