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FACE Report: Worker compressed between compact excavator and steel beam

Photo: NIOSH

Case report: #18MA001
Issued by: Massachusetts State Fatality Assessment and Control Evaluation Program
Date of incident: Jan. 18, 2018

A 27-year-old laborer was killed while using a compact excavator to excavate an existing crawl space underneath a house. He was working alone at the time of the incident, but evidence indicates he was operating the excavator when his body made contact with an overhead steel beam. This contact would have pushed him forward in the operator’s seat, leaving him unable to move out of the way of the controls and the guard. The boom and bucket were found in an extended position, suggesting the left main control lever was forced in the forward direction after coming in contact with the beam – lifting the front of the unit and the stabilizers off the ground and compressing the victim’s back and neck against the beam and his front against the top of the unit. The company owner arrived onsite and found the victim pinned between the excavator and the beam. First responders arrived and freed the victim, who was pronounced dead at the scene. Cause of death was listed as asphyxia as a result of compression of the neck and chest.

To help prevent similar occurrences, employers should:

  • Ensure only workers with required training and licenses are permitted to operate compact excavators and other regulated equipment.
  • Ensure ride-on equipment without a protective cab is not operated in the vicinity of overhead obstructions.
  • Develop, implement and enforce a policy that prevents employees from working alone in certain situations.
  • Ensure a job hazard analysis is performed before the start of each project and updated if the scope of the project changes.
  • Develop and implement a comprehensive safety and health program.

In addition, equipment manufacturers should:

  • Adopt and implement the concept of Prevention through Design to identify potential hazards associated with equipment and then eliminate these hazards through design changes.
  • Develop a pictograph of the overhead crushing hazard and set a minimum height clearance for operating the excavator.

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