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Snooper Truck Tip Leaves Workers Stranded

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

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Two workers reportedly escaped without serious injury after the crane from which they were performing a bridge inspection tipped over Monday (Aug. 29).

The incident happened on the Sakonnet River Bridge, which carries State Route 24 across the Sakonnet in Tiverton, RI. Workers for the Rhode Island Turnpike and Bridge Authority were inspecting the underside of the bridge as the truck itself sat on the deck.

At around 2:00 p.m., the truck tipped onto its side, leaving the pair stranded for over an hour, according to reports.

The Authority requested a second crane, which was used to rescue the stranded inspectors.

Safety Protocols Followed

Officials from the RITBA told local media that they believed the inspectors followed all safety protocols in using the truck, called an under-bridge inspection unit (UBIU), or “snooper,” and the cause of the incident is not yet known.

RITBA, along with the contractor working on the inspection and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, will reportedly be investigating the cause of the mishap.

“There will be a full inspection into why this vehicle tipped when all the protocols and safety procedures were followed,” RITBA spokesman Jim Malachowski told The Boston Globe.

“These are very common vehicles and they’re very useful,” Malachowski added. “They’re not supposed to tip over.”

About the Snooper

A representative of N.E. Bridge Contractors Inc., of Norton, MA, confirmed to PaintSquare News that the truck involved belonged to that company, which rents out UBIU trucks for projects across the United States.

The company’s owner was reportedly at the site of the accident Tuesday (August 30) taking part in the investigation; ownership did not supply any further comment to PaintSquare News as of this article’s deadline Tuesday afternoon.

N.E. Bridge has been in business since 1978, according to its website, originally performing welding and bridge rehab services, then shifting its focus to supplying equipment to facilitate inspection of and work on bridges and other structures.

OSHA’s online enforcement database shows that the firm paid $6,450 in fines after an inspection on a Boston jobsite in 2008 turned up alleged violations related to aerial equipment, marine operations and dive team operations, but has faced no citations since.

Aspen A75 UBIU
Aspen Aerials

The A-75 is the largest model of snooper truck available from Aspen Aerials, with a horizontal under-bridge reach of 75 feet and a vertical reach down of 72 feet.

Photos from the site appear to indicate that the truck involved was an Aspen A-75 model, and according to news reports, RITBA said the truck was about two years old. The A-75 is the largest model of snooper truck available from Aspen Aerials, with a horizontal under-bridge reach of 75 feet and a vertical reach down of 72 feet.

Product materials state that, like other Aspen UBIU models, the A-75 is stabilized using hydraulically operated suspension lockouts and a dual counterweight system, eliminating the need for outriggers.

Photos indicate that N.E. Bridge also supplied the snooper truck that facilitated the rescue of the workers. As of Tuesday afternoon, authorities had not released information about the contractor performing the inspection work.

Past Snooper Troubles

It was almost exactly a year ago that bridge inspector William Shook was killed in a crane accident in Connecticut. In that case, the UBIU truck tipped while Shook was standing nearby, and crushed the inspector. That incident happened only a day after another mishap, without injuries, occurred in Connecticut; both of last year’s incidents involved contractor McClain and Co.

The Sakonnet River Bridge was opened in 2012, replacing an older bridge, which still stands beside the new structure. The old Sakonnet River Bridge is slated for demolition next year.


Tagged categories: Accidents; Bridges; Health & Safety; Inspection; Inspection equipment; North America; Safety

Comment from Tom Schwerdt, (8/31/2016, 9:40 AM)

I'm surprised that such a system is deployed without outriggers. An automatic counterweight system sounds convenient for faster deployment, but I like the visual confirmation of locked outriggers.

Comment from Chuck Pease, (8/31/2016, 4:37 PM)

First thing that comes to my mind and I will preface with, I have never used this equipment personally, why is Sam hell isn't the unit equipped with outriggers? Isn't it clear that the additional stability from having outriggers in place would keep this sort of accident from occurring. Maybe someone else better versed with this truck can explain. The weight of the 2 workers plus the weight of the boom itself running at that angle looks to me to be a accident waiting to happen.

Comment from Chuck Pease, (8/31/2016, 4:39 PM)

Missed your comment Tom. Ya this is clearly a mfrg/engineering defect. Looks like they had to clean their shorts when they got home. Thank the powers above they go to go home!!!

Comment from Jeffrey Morgan, (9/1/2016, 9:45 AM)

Sounds like a possible suspension-locking system failure. I wonder if they forgo outriggers so the vehicle can be moved while deployed, although that sounds dangerous.

Comment from Janet Mazeau, (9/2/2016, 7:48 AM)

Not having outriggers probably means they don't have to take out more than the shoulder or one travel lane while doing inspections.

Comment from Tom Schwerdt, (9/2/2016, 8:26 AM)

Janet - it looks like the width "saved" by not having deployable outriggers was consumed by making the truck body wider. Certainly looks wider than any snooper or Hydra platform I've been on. A standard snooper typically can work within a single lane.

Comment from Stephen Dobrosielski, (9/2/2016, 9:19 AM)

Looking at the first photo (the video), and assuming (I know enough to never assume but that kills the fun of the discussion) that the orientation of the joints that are visible in that photo is exactly the orientation when the vehicle stability was compromised, the actual "moment arm" length appears to be much larger than what I would consider to be normal. Looking at the other units shown in the other photos ... that second arm is always nearly vertical. Picture the toppled vehicle with the joint orientation frozen and that boom section would be nowhere close to vertical.

Comment from M. Halliwell, (9/6/2016, 11:07 AM)

Stephen, I'd agree...if that was how the truck was deployed when the accident happened, then it is user error in trying to use the down segment to get closer to the edge of the underside of the counterweight or wider truck can hope to cope with that sort of moment arm / leverage.

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