Lockout/Tagout Needed to Protect Snowplow Drivers, Report Concludes

The employer of a snowplow driver who died after his clothing became entangled in a truck's rotary auger lacked a lockout/tagout program addressing the hazards of rotary machine parts, among other key safety measures, a Wisconsin Fatality Assessment and Control Evaluation (FACE) report concludes.

The driver, who died on Dec. 20, 2004, due to mechanical asphyxia, likely was trying to remove ice or salt clumps from the auger area inside the truck's dump box when his sleeve caught on a metal tooth on the auger's upper metal bar, according to the FACE report. The driver had the dump box raised at a 70-degree angle, according to the report.

"The vehicle and auger [were] running at maximum speed," the report explains. "The victim reached in over the back of the truck to free the salt when the tooth of the auger caught his sleeve and pulled him up into the truck. The rotation of the teeth of the blades caught the victim's loose-fitting jacket that became entwined around the blades of the auger."

A co-worker found the man at 3:46 p.m. in the back of the dump truck next to the rotary auger, according to the report.

"The co-worker called 9-1-1 and stated a man has his arm in an auger," the report states. "The victim's right arm had been caught in the auger and was wrapped around the auger several times. The victim's jacket had been pulled extremely tight and his arm had been broken and bones were visible."

The victim, who was 55, was operating a snowplow Ford F-550 dump truck with a hydraulically operated Swenson salt-spreading attachment, the report says. The attachment includes an auger that sits in a trough where rotary blades move the salt to a rotating wheel, which applies the salt to the pavement.

The auger is located at the rear of the dump box, the report explains. Although there is metal shielding that prevents exposure to the auger from the rear of the vehicle, there is no such shielding blocking exposure from the inside of the dump box, according to the FACE report.

Train Workers on Auger Hazards

To prevent similar incidents, the FACE report recommends that employers:

  • Implement an effective lockout/tagout program that identifies and addresses the hazards associated with rotary machine parts. The program should include all the manufacturer's recommendations for safe machine handling. The operating guidelines for the Swenson tailgate spreader advise operators to avoid loose-fitting clothing and to cut power to the equipment "before making any repairs, adjustments or cleaning."
  • Contact the manufacturer to determine whether the rotary machine parts can be completely shielded to prevent worker exposure to moving machine parts.
  • Train workers to recognize the hazards associated with working near or around exposed rotating machine parts. "Workers who operate or work near the rotary auger should receive specific training in the hazards associated with the rotary auger," the report says. The report notes the employer of the victim did not have a written safety and health program.

Click here for the full Wisconsin FACE report.

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