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FACEValue: Equipment operator dies after zero-turn mower overturns

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Case report: #17MA018*
Issued by: Massachusetts Fatality Assessment and Control Evaluation (FACE) Program
Date of incident: June 15, 2017

A 57-year-old equipment operator was killed while mowing grass at a municipality-owned pump station. As he turned the zero-turn mower he was riding on to his left, it struck a rock that was covered by vegetation. The mower overturned and pinned the operator to the ground. A driver passing by noticed the overturned mower, stopped and called emergency medical services. The victim was transported to a local hospital, where he was pronounced dead. The medical examiner listed the cause of death as traumatic asphyxia. The employer was a local municipal department of public works for a Massachusetts town. At the time of the incident, the department had no comprehensive safety and health program.

To help prevent similar incidents:

  • Ensure riding-mower operators use rollover protection systems and wear seat belts.
  • Routinely perform a Job Safety Analysis before beginning mowing.
  • Ensure riding mowers aren’t operated on slopes where the angle exceeds the maximum slope specified by the manufacturer.
  • Routinely provide employees with training on the equipment they’re asked to use.
  • Develop and implement a comprehensive safety and health program that addresses hazard recognition and avoidance of unsafe conditions.
  • Consider developing policies that prevent employees from working alone when performing certain tasks.

To download the full report, go to cdc.gov/niosh/face/pdfs/17ma018.pdf.

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