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FACEValue: Millworker killed after falling down shaft

Date of incident: Dec. 21, 2007

A 57-year-old cleanup worker at an animal feed processing plant was killed after falling into a manlift shaft. Prior to the incident, the victim was instructed to sweep the basement. For unknown reasons, he went to the second floor and, approximately 10 minutes later, a co-worker heard a crashing sound in the manlift. The victim was found dangling from one of the crossbeams about 8 feet below the second-floor opening. A fixed platform step on the continuously moving manlift belt struck him on the back of the head repeatedly. One co-worker stopped the manlift and called for emergency assistance, while another climbed down the ladder in the manlift to tend to the victim. Rescue workers pronounced the victim dead at the scene. The victim was a native Spanish speaker with limited English proficiency. Although the incident was not witnessed, it is believed the victim tripped or misjudged the handhold. 

To prevent future occurrences:

  • Employers must ensure workers understand safe procedures and demonstrate competence using a manlift. Employers are required to provide safety training to employees, and must verify workers have the knowledge and skills to work safely. Training should include verbal instruction, demonstration and practice under supervision. Further, the National Safety Council recommends that workers who use manlifts receive physical exams.
  • Employers should train and supervise foreign-born workers in a language they understand. Employers are required to present safety training tailored to an employee’s language and education level.
  • Employers must ensure landing surfaces for manlifts are clear and provide safe footing. On the floor on which this incident occurred, exposed bolts presented a tripping hazard. On another floor in the plant, a spongy plywood floor and ramp also presented such hazards. The floor around a manlift shaft should be flat, solid and clear of obstructions.

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