A 63-year-old mechanic was killed after being pulled into a snow thrower at a ski resort. Although no one witnessed the incident, investigators believe the worker was attempting to move the snow thrower out of a garage. The investigation indicated the victim started the engine and engaged the power take-off on the snow thrower before getting off the tractor to open the garage door. His flannel shirt became caught in the auger, and he was pulled into it. Two co-workers went to look for the victim after receiving a phone call from his wife stating he had not returned home from work. The co-workers entered the garage and discovered the victim caught in the auger of the snow thrower with the engine stalled. The local emergency rescue squad responded within 10 minutes, but the victim was pronounced dead at the scene. Although the victim had worked with the ski resort for more than 20 years, he received no training on how to properly operate the snow thrower, nor was he authorized to do so. Further, the medical examiner determined the victim’s blood-alcohol content was 0.12 percent.
Employers should ensure snow removal equipment has properly functioning operator-presence controls. All snow throwers should have an operator-presence control that automatically stops the engine within five seconds of the operator leaving the operating position. If a snow thrower does not have this control, employers should consult with the manufacturer about retrofitting.
Employers should ensure all snow removal equipment has clearly visible warning signs. Signs should be printed or attached to all snow removal equipment to alert operators of the life-threatening consequences of working on or near the snow thrower without disconnecting the power to the impeller and auger. If equipment does not have warning signs, employers should contact the manufacturer for new signs.
Employers should create and strictly enforce a company drug and alcohol policy. Alcohol misuse can be associated with loss of productivity, tardiness, absenteeism and an increase in the frequency of workplace injuries and fatalities. Employers should develop a policy that ensures a safe work environment, free of drugs and alcohol.