A 67-year-old machine operator died from burns when a fire ignited between the engine and cab of a bulldozer. The victim had been working at the company as a full-time heavy equipment operator for about 30 years. On the day of the incident, the operator was reversing the bulldozer to remove shale when a hydraulic line burst and sprayed hot fluid across the engine while the victim was sitting inside the cab. The resulting fire ignited the clothing of the victim, who exited the cab. The owner of the company was working about 30 feet away when the incident occurred. He rolled the victim onto the ground and extinguished the fire with loose shale and dirt. Emergency medical services arrived about seven minutes after receiving a call from the owner. The victim was treated in a nearby hospital for roughly three hours and then airlifted to another hospital, where he died.
To prevent future occurrences:
- Inspect mobile construction equipment on a daily basis to ensure defective equipment is immediately reported and removed from service until repaired. OSHA requires all construction equipment to be maintained in a safe and operable condition. Employers should designate a competent person to be responsible for daily pre-shift equipment checks and verifying that problems are corrected. The owner did not require the bulldozer involved in this incident to be formally inspected with a checklist prior to each shift. Each operator was expected to look over their equipment prior to use.
- Develop, implement and enforce a comprehensive written safety and health program for all workers. Employers should evaluate all tasks performed by workers; identify all potential hazards; then develop, implement, and enforce a written safety and health program that meets ?applicable OSHA standards and addresses these hazards. No written safety and health program was in place at this company, and the company did not document training. On-the-job training was provided through verbal means, safety packets were distributed and reminders were added to a bulletin board.