On Feb. 12, 2020, Roy Rock LLC sent a concrete pump truck to Elizabeth, N.J., where a developer was constructing an apartment building. It had rained heavily much of the week.

After consulting with the general contractor’s foreperson, the operator moved the pump truck into position, with its outriggers extended and pads placed beneath the outriggers. A Roy Rock employee held the hose and the pump operator started pumping. Suddenly, one of the outriggers sunk, the boom lowered and the hose swung—knocking the employee unconscious and sending him to the hospital.

The employee recovered, but legal reverberations over the accident have lasted two years and may soon be decided. 

The East Orange, N.J.-based contractor contested a penalty of $13,493 proposed by the Parsippany, N.J., office of the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration. In a hearing before an OSHA Review Commission judge, Roy Rock said the project general contractor directed its truck operator where to position the pumper truck. 

But the contractor did not warn Roy Rock when it placed one outrigger over a concrete pipe 3 ft beneath the surface of the soggy ground—which caused the truck to tilt unexpectedly. The administrative law judge ruled against Roy Rock, but the OSHA Review Commission still must approve the decision.

The accident is one of several recent instances in which a concrete pump truck has shifted suddenly, injuring or killing employees around it with fatal blows from the boom and hose. One accident occurred in October 2020, when a pump truck at a Litchfield, Minn., jobsite tipped toward the driver’s side “due to the failure of an outrigger base,” says OSHA records. The boom collapsed and struck the head of one worker, who died, and hit another in the torso, critically injuring him.

Another concrete construction pumper became unstable in December 2020, during work on a five-story building in Franklin, Tenn. According to OSHA records, while one employee operated the hose, the ground under the outriggers on the truck passenger side collapsed, “causing the truck to shift and the truck’s boom-delivery pipe to strike” an employee in the head, killing him.

In the New Jersey incident, after OSHA cited Roy Rock for a serious violation based on its alleged failure to keep the pump truck stable, the contractor contested the proposed penalty. Firm attorney, Eric Magnelli, says some liability for the mishap belongs with the project’s prime contractor, which directed the pump truck operator where to set up, yet failed to note the presence of the pipes or drains in the ground. But OSHA proposed no penalty against the prime contractor.

Magnelli also said that Roy Rock believes it has been targeted by a series of complaints made to OSHA’s Parsippany office, possibly because of the concrete firm’s open-shop status. A spokeswoman for OSHA declined to comment on the accusation about complaints and targeting or any aspect of the penalties against Roy Rock.

The American Concrete Pumping Association has extensive guidance on its website about proper use of outriggers, as well as on the dangers of being struck by a boom or hose.

The OSHA Review Commission Judge, Keith E. Bell, made direct references to association safety bulletins in his June 14 ruling against Roy Rock, writing that when it came to outriggers, one contractor responsibility is to inform the pumping truck operator of “backfilled areas, soft or muddy areas, or underground obstructions.” In addition, Bell noted that the guidance calls for calculating the load-bearing capacity of the ground surface using a “mathematical formula” prior to placing a pump truck’s outrigger and pads or cribbing.

Based on the OSHA compliance officer’s investigation of the New Jersey accident and other evidence, the judge wrote, Roy Rock’s pumping truck operator only conducted a visual inspection prior to setting the outriggers and not the more extensive measures needed.