This short presentation describes a preventable workplace incident where a worker in Washington state was killed on the job and is narrated by the L & I safety inspector who conducted the investigation. To view the narration script, click on the button on the lower right corner of the screen. To move between slides, or view a particular slide again, click on the same lower right hand corner button and then click on the back and forward arrows at the bottom of the screen.
Hello, my name is Rick White and I work for the Department of Labor and Industries, Division of Occupational Safety and Health. I was the investigator for a incident where a 38-year old welder was fatally injured while doing maintenance on a large chip conveyor at a commercial wood chipping facility.
A new conveyor system had been installed to move wood chips from a large chipper to the yard area. The system was operational but not complete. Two workers, including a welder, were working at the in-feed end of the conveyor system which was 400 feet from out-feed end.
At the same time, two other workers were working at the out-feed end of the conveyor. The control panel, including the disconnect switch for the system, was located at the out-feed end. The conveyor was shut down for maintenance.
The workers at the out-feed end needed to move the belt a few feet to complete their work. Before starting up the conveyor, one of the workers checked to see if the other workers at the in-feed end were away from the belt. He saw one worker clear, but did not see the welder, and apparently did not know he was at the worksite, so he activated the on switch. This switch was designed to be locked out as shown in the photo on the right, but no lockout devices were in use at the time of the incident.
The welder was working below the hopper, sitting on the conveyor belt between the metal framework and the conveyor and therefore not visible from the out-feed end. When the conveyor belt was turned on, the welder was immediately pulled by the moving belt into the narrow space under the metal framework feet first, trapping him and inflicting severe crushing injuries. The fast-moving conveyor belt was on for 4-5 seconds and moved nearly 33 ft. with the welder trapped before it was shut-off. His co-workers immediately called 911 and then managed to free him. He was transported to the hospital, but died soon after.
Lockout/tagout procedures require powered equipment to be shut down and locked out so that it cannot be inadvertently turned on when maintenance is being done. When more than one worker will be doing maintenance, all these workers must have locks and use them. The machinery cannot be started up until all locks are removed. In this incident all the workers had been provided with locks, but they were not used. The workers involved had also been provided general training on lockout/tagout, but the employer did not ensure they followed company lockout/tagout procedures or that they fully understood how this newly installed conveyor system worked.
This incident could have been prevented by doing the following: First, ensure the workers understand how the machinery and the lockout/tagout process works, second, use a group lockout system when more than one person is working on the same equipment, and finally, enforce lockout/tagout requirements. Letís keep Washington Safe and Working by ensuring lockout procedures are understood and actually used.