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Case Study
Construction machine operator after an accident at work


The medium-sized company is part of a group of companies with civil engineering, road construction, environmental engineering, gravel plant, quarry and slag recycling operations.

Employer's comment:

For the owner it is important to use the potential of experienced skilled workers with impairments - especially in times of shortage of skilled workers. For example, he says, you don't notice any difference from non-disabled colleagues when the person is in the wheel loader and driving it. All that really counts is the desire, ability and talent for the work - which is important for employees, especially when dealing with large construction machines. The company is therefore pleased that the employee in question has returned to work. The owner deliberately chose a fairly new wheel loader for the barrier-free conversion in order to ensure the longest possible service life.

Disability and impairment of the employee:

The man has been paraplegic since a traffic accident on the way to work and is dependent on the use of a wheelchair. His mobility as well as his grasping range are restricted, he can no longer operate controls with his feet such as pedals and cannot use stairs or steps to climb a construction vehicle. The GdB (degree of disability) is 100. The severely disabled person's ID card includes the marks B, G, aG and H.
The traffic accident was followed by several operations in hospital and then medical rehabilitation, during which the use of the wheelchair was also trained. During his stay in hospital, he was supervised by a rehabilitation manager from the employers' liability insurance association - as he was during the subsequent phases of rehabilitation.

Training and job:

The man is a construction machine operator and worked for his company for many years. To re-enter working life, he initially completed a qualification as a watch and jewelry specialist in a Vocational Training Centre (BFW). As this did not correspond to his actual inclinations in the long term and he would like to work again in his old job as a construction machine operator, he made a corresponding request to his former employing company. The company was open to the request, as the man is a good skilled worker, and a technical solution was sought. The rehab manager supported this project by advising and referring the man to a specialist company for vehicle conversions suitable for disabled people.

Workplace and work organization:

To enable the construction machine operator to return to work in the company, a suitable workplace was selected in the gravel plant and a wheel loader was adapted to suit disabled people. The transfer was necessary because it was not possible to work as a construction machine operator on construction sites due to the constantly changing and non-barrier-free conditions on site. The adaptations of the wheel loader were facilitated by the fact that it is already equipped with joystick control, automatic transmission and automatic door opening at the push of a button as standard. To enable the employee to enter the wheel loader or its driver's cab independently, the wheel loader was equipped with an electromotive seat lift for him and a wheelchair loading aid, also electromotive, with a cable pull on a swivel arm. In addition, a holder for the wheelchair was fitted to the outside of the vehicle so that it can be carried safely on the wheel loader. To operate the accelerator and brake, an additional control element or accelerator and brake slider was attached to the joystick for the steering and integrated into the wheel loader's travel and steering system in terms of control technology. The construction machine operator can thus comfortably control the wheel loader with his left hand. The control of the accelerator and brake can be switched to normal operation at any time, so that other employees can also drive the wheel loader as usual in the event of a substitute (e.g. vacation or illness). In addition, the wheel loader was equipped with a parking heater - this was another requirement of the employers' liability insurance association with regard to the disability-related adaptations.

Working environment - mobility:

The residential building had to be designed barrier-free. For example, access and egress is provided via a passenger elevator attached to the outside of the house, with a satisfactory-sized cabin and large doors and controls in the restricted reach area. Parked directly nearby is the automatic-transmission car, converted from foot to manual operation, that is used to travel to work. In the gravel plant, there are also paths that can be used to a certain extent by wheelchair, for example to reach the wheel loader in the parking area, and barrier-free sanitary facilities.

Employee comment:

The construction machine operator is very grateful to his company. He thinks there should be more companies that give employees a second chance after such a blow of fate. He is glad to be able to work in his job again, because from his youth he only ever wanted to work in construction - he loves his job.

Assistive products used:

Further Information

Because of the accident on the way to work, the Employer's Liability Insurance Association supported the necessary conversion work on the private home, the adaptations for the private car and the wheel loader at the workplace. The person concerned and the company were supported by a rehabilitation manager from the employers' liability insurance association and a company specializing in vehicle conversions.

ICF Items

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Last Update: 4 Jan 2022