SUMMARY : CASE 191-010-01
A tractor driver was towing a scraper and a roller through a walnut orchard. The ground in walnut orchards is graded and packed in this way before the nuts are harvested. The driver was probably looking over his shoulder to guide the equipment he was towing when he drove under a low tree branch. The branch knocked him off the back of the tractor. The tractor continued moving forward and dragged the scraper and then the roller over the driver. His chest was crushed and he bled to death on the scene.
How could this death have been prevented?
A California Occupational Safety and Health Administration (Cal/OSHA) district compliance office reported a tractor-related fatality at an orchard in California to NURSE staff in December, 1991. A Senior Safety Engineer from the NURSE project conducted an on-site investigation on December 18, 1991 and discussed the incident with the manager of the farm. The Cal/OSHA report and photographs of the incident scene were obtained from the local Cal/OSHA office with the farm owner's consent.
This incident occurred in a large farm corporation with 40 full time employees and a full-time designated safety director. The farm's primary crop is walnuts. After the incident the Cal/OSHA inspector reviewed the corporation's written injury prevention program and noted that it complied with Title 8 California Code of Regulations 3203 -- Injury and Illness Prevention Program. (As of July 1, 1991 the State of California requires all employers to have a written seven point injury prevention program: designated safety person responsible for implementing the program; mode for ensuring employee compliance; hazard communication; hazard evaluation through periodic inspections; injury investigation procedures; intervention process for correcting hazards; and a health and safety program.)
On August 14, 1991 at approximately 5:00 p.m. a 35 year old male Hispanic farm tractor driver sustained a fatal injury after being knocked off the tractor he was driving and run over by a scraper and roller combination he was towing behind the tractor. The tractor driver was working alone, preparing the ground in a walnut grove prior to mechanical harvesting of the walnuts. The ground must be as level as possible for the walnuts to be swept up after they are mechanically shaken from the trees. The tractor driver wore safety glasses and a baseball style cotton hat. The estimated speed of the tractor was 1« miles per hour. Apparently the driver looked back over his shoulder in order to check the scraper and roller and was struck on his head by a low limb, which knocked him off the tractor. He was then rolled over by the scraper and then the roller. A tree with a set of low lying branches which were extending into the work row between the trees was identified as the possible object that hit the driver; these branches were in the direct path of the driver and were low enough to knock him off the tractor. One limb was torn from the supporting branch and was discolored where he must have struck his head.
The driver was found dead at the scene at around 5:45 - 6:00 p.m. by co-workers who noticed his vehicle was still parked outside the farm shop. His body was found 30 feet down the row from the low lying branches. The tractor was further down past the location of the driver. The tractor was not running but the ignition was on and it was in first gear.
A deputy coroner pronounced the tractor driver dead on the scene. The autopsy revealed multiple rib fractures which had lacerated the driver's liver and caused him to bleed to death. (Exsanguination from multiple liver lacerations.) His neck was also dislocated.PREVENTION STRATEGIES
For further information concerning this incident or other agriculture-related injuries, please contact:NURSE Project
2151 Berkeley Way, Annex 11
Berkeley, California 94704
1111 Fulton Mall, Suite 212
Fresno, California 93721
1000 South Main St., Suite 306
Salinas, California 93901
Publication #: CDHS(COHP)-FI-92-005-03
This document was extracted from a series of the Nurses Using Rural Sentinal Events (NURSE) project, conducted by the California Occupational Health Program of the California Department of Health Services, in conjunction with the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health. Publication date: May 1992.
The NURSE (Nurses Using Rural Sentinel Events) project is conducted by the California Occupational Health Program of the California Department of Health Services, in conjunction with the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health. The program's goal is to prevent occupational injuries associated with agriculture. Injuries are reported by hospitals, emergency medical services, clinics, medical examiners, and coroners. Selected cases are followed up by conducting interviews of injured workers, co-workers, employers, and others involved in the incident. An on-site safety investigation is also conducted. These investigations provide detailed information on the worker, the work environment, and the potential risk factors resulting in the injury. Each investigation concludes with specific recommendations designed to prevent injuries, for the use of employers, workers, and others concerned about health and safety in agriculture.
Disclaimer and Reproduction Information: Information in NASD does not represent NIOSH policy. Information included in NASD appears by permission of the author and/or copyright holder. More