FACEValue: Golf course landscaper pinned under mower and killed

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NIOSH’s Fatality Assessment and Control Evaluation Reports
#05MI060

Date of incident: June 13, 2005

A 19-year-old golf course employee was killed after being pinned under an overturned tee box mower. The victim was hired for full-time groundskeeping work at a resort that had been in business for 50 years. It was his first year on the job. After hiring him, the company had an experienced co-worker provide hands-on training. The victim did not review the owner’s manual for the mower as part of this training. The incident occurred while the victim was mowing what was considered to be the most difficult hole of the resort’s three nine-hole golf courses. The oval-shaped tee box was on a plateau with three gently sloping sides; one side had a sharp 49-degree, 19-foot drop-off into some trees. The victim had successfully mowed this particular hole 15-20 times previously. Prior to the incident, the victim made three passes in a diagonal motion across the tee box, turning the mower at the edge. After the third pass, the back wheel of the mower went over the edge. The mower tumbled down the sharp slope and landed at the base, with the victim pinned beneath. Although no one witnessed the incident, a co-worker found the victim shortly afterward and called 911. Emergency personnel declared the victim dead at the scene. The cause of death was listed as asphyxiation.

To prevent future occurrences:

  • Golf course superintendents should conduct a hole-by-hole vehicle rollover risk assessment to determine the best machinery and methods to use. Conducting a hazard assessment of work to be performed is essential to control hazards. Employers should identify hazards, develop written safe-work procedures to control them and train employees on these procedures.
  • Employee training should include a review of written material, such as the machine’s instruction manual. Although the victim in this case was provided with on-the-job training by an experienced co-worker, the company did not provide the machine manual as part of his training. The manual for the mower the victim was using included a section titled “Avoiding Tipping,” which addressed concerns (such as mowing near a drop-off) that could have helped him avoid the hazard.
  • All workers on the course should be equipped with a company-supplied communication device when working alone.

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