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Crushed-by Wood Chipper Machine Maintenance Incident


OSHA has identified the 4 leading causes of fatalities in construction and general industry work environments and Caught-in Hazards are one of the Focus Four.

Caught-in or Caught-between hazards are defined as Injuries resulting from a person being squeezed, caught, crushed, pinched, or compressed between two or more objects, or between parts of an object.

In this incident, A 54-year-old mechanic at a tree trimming and removal company died after being crushed underneath an 8,000-pound wood chipping machine at a maintenance yard. On the day of the incident, the individual and another worker were attempting to change the brakes on the wood chipper. They were using a telescopic hydraulic jack to lift the chipper in order to remove the wheels. After one side of the wood chipper was lifted, a single jack stand (rated for three-tons) was placed under that side. The worker went underneath the machine attempting to properly position the hydraulic jack on the axle to lift the other side. The jack slipped, the jack stand broke, and the wood chipper fell on top of the decedent, killing him.

Maintenance garage and wood chipper similar to the one involved in the incident.
Wood chipper, views from the side and from underneath.
OSH Act of 1970 General Duty Clause Section 5(a)(1) Each employer shall furnish to each of his employees employment and a place of employment which are free from recognized hazards that are causing or are likely to cause death or serious physical harm… (b) Each employee shall comply with occupational safety and health standards and all rules, regulations, and orders issued pursuant to this Act which are applicable to his own actions and conduct.

To read the full incident report and see more photos, visit this link: NIOSH FACE Report 12-NJ-024

Important lessons from this tragic incident that should serve as safety reminders to all workers in any industrial environment:

  • Never attempt to operate equipment you have not been trained and authorized to use and never use equipment or machinery unless you have been properly trained on all safety features.
  • Always inspect all machinery and equipment prior to operation.
  • Maintain safe distances from potential hazards.
  • Ensure that safety devices such as jacks, lifting devices, and similar equipment is rated for the required loads.
Explains that using 2 jacks rated for 3-ton each does not equal a 6-ton jack.

Caught-in hazards don't just exist where a line worker might get their glove caught in a gear or where crews on jobsites need to remember to stay out of the way of the swing areas of excavators or cranes.

Caught-in hazards exist at every job site and all team members need to be trained to recognize potential caught-in hazards to ensure they will avoid placing themselves in a situation where they are putting themselves at risk because they haven't not been properly trained, or the equipment is or cannot be properly locked and tagged before servicing.

Caught-in Warning Signs

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