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FACEValue: Truck driver buried by mulch at solid waste dump site

NIOSH’s Fatality Assessment and Control Evaluation Reports

Date of incident: September 2006

A driver was killed after being buried by mulch in his truck’s trailer at a solid waste dump site. Both the trucking company the victim worked for and the dump site had basic safety and health procedures and policies in place. At the time of the incident, the victim’s truck trailer was being loaded with mulch. The waste site’s loading procedure required truck drivers to remain in the cab throughout the loading process, periodically moving forward to evenly distribute the mulch. The victim had previously picked up mulch at this site before, and workers assumed he was familiar with the protocol. The loader operator deposited one bucket of mulch – the equivalent of 5 cubic yards – before noticing the trailer door was open and the victim was not in the cab. Concerned, he called for help and one co-worker called 911 while others began digging through the pile. Emergency services arrived shortly and the victim was recovered, unconscious, about 15 minutes later. He was transported to a local hospital where he died. Workers later found a blue tarp in the mulch. Investigators believe the victim entered the trailer from the rear to lay the tarp to reduce the necessity of manually sweeping.

To prevent future occurrences:

Owners of solid waste facilities should develop and enforce a standard safe loading/unloading procedure. To prevent the miscommunication that led to this incident, waste facilities should consider taking the following actions:

  • Assign a site traffic coordinator to monitor the loading operation and traffic in loading area.
  • Require the loader operator to refrain from discharging a load until he confirms the driver is in the cab.
  • Require all visiting drivers to remain in the cab during loading.
  • Monitor and enforce the standard safety procedure to both site personnel and visiting drivers. Take disciplinary action if necessary.

Owners of solid waste facilities and trucking companies should provide frequent training for all personnel on the standard safe loading/unloading procedure. Waste facility personnel should be frequently reminded of and fully trained on safety protocols at the site. Employers should emphasize the serious hazards present. Trucking companies also should train truckers to recognize and avoid the hazards associated with loading and unloading. The size and configuration of large equipment creates a large blind spot that places drivers at greater risk of being run over during such tasks. The hazards of entering a trailer during loading – such as entrapment and engulfing – also should also be addressed.

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