A 44-year-old construction worker (victim) was killed when a 36-inch-wide bucket weighing more than 1000 pounds, detached from its quick release coupler and fell from an excavator, landing on him as he was working in a trench. The victim and another worker had been in the trench preparing it for a pre-formed concrete manhole that they were about to install. Their supervisor (the excavator operator) sat and waited in the excavator, with the engine running, and the bucket raised a few feet above ground level so that it would be out of the way. The second man in the trench had just turned away from the victim when he heard a “click” and turned back to see the bucket fall. He attempted to move the bucket, but could not. He and the excavator operator used the excavator and a chain to remove the bucket and then called for help. The victim was pronounced dead at the scene upon arrival of emergency medical workers. In order to prevent similar instances from occurring, FACE investigators recommend that:

  • Workers should not work under heavy machinery
  • A manual-locking pin, although it would require the operator to exit the cab or another worker on the ground to disengage, would dramatically increase the safety of those working with and around the equipment and should be a part of all quick release couplers. Also, the control panel for quick release couplers for heavy equipment should have only two positions, lock and unlock. When in the unlock position, there should be indicator lights as well as audible warnings to alert the operator and others nearby to the coupler’s status. The lights should be mounted in a highly visible area.
  • All equipment should be maintained properly, including routine maintenance as recommended by the manufacturer as well as unscheduled repair and replacement of missing, damaged, or worn parts.
  • Trenches deeper than five feet should have the walls shored for workers protection.

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