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Office assistant at sod farm dies when forklift slides into ditch and she is pinned in.

NIOSH 1996 Feb; :1-4
A 28-year-old white female office assistant (the victim) at a sod farm died after being pinned under the tire of a forklift that had slipped into a manmade drainage ditch. The employer in this incident was a sod farm and landscaping business that hired seasonal workers during the spring, summer and fall for field work. The victim usually performed general office duties for the business, but had occasionally operated a forklift under supervision. The field workers primarily spoke Spanish, while the office assistant was only proficient in English. On the day of the incident, the victim was notified that a customer had arrived earlier than expected and was waiting to pick up a small load of sod. The farm owner (the farmer) and laborers who usually loaded the sod were working in the fields, about a half-mile from the office and could not be easily contacted. The victim drove a Case Model 586 E forklift to a stack of rolled sod near a flatbed truck parked on a path that ran alongside a water-filled ditch. She was apparently positioning the forklift to pick up a pallet of sod to load onto the truck when the forklift began to slip backwards into the ditch. Although the forklift was equipped with a rollover protection structure (ROPS) and seatbelts, the victim was not wearing the seatbelts at the time of the incident. The event was unwitnessed, but it appears she either fell or jumped from the forklift and was pinned underwater by a rear wheel of the forklift as it rolled into the ditch. The farmer and a laborer noticed that the forklift was no longer visible in the area of the truck and went to investigate. The laborer found the victim pinned underwater, and raised her head enough to reach air. The farmer called for emergency services from the truck phone. Emergency services arrived, and the forklift was pulled from the water by a tractor brought from a nearby field. After cardiopulmonary resuscitation was started, the victim was transported to a hospital, where she died five days later from anoxic brain injury. The Wisconsin FACE investigator concluded that, to prevent similar occurrences, employers should: 1. Develop, implement and enforce a written safety program that includes, but is not limited to, completion of powered industrial truck training program before operation of a forklift. 2. Ensure that all workers wear seat belts on forklifts and other equipment that have rollover protective structures (ROPS). 3. Consider using personal mobile radios to communicate with workers in remote worksites. 4. Ensure that employees are trained in first aid and cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) In addition, employers of workers who are not fluent in English should: 5. Ensure that all workers receive instructions on safe work practices in a manner that is clear, complete, and understandable to the employee.
Region-5; Accident-analysis; Accident-prevention; Accidents; Injuries; Injury-prevention; Traumatic-injuries; Work-operations; Work-analysis; Work-areas; Work-performance; Work-practices; Safety-education; Safety-equipment; Safety-measures; Safety-monitoring; Protective-measures; Agricultural-industry; Agricultural-machinery; Agricultural-processes; Agricultural-workers; Agriculture; Equipment-operators; Equipment-reliability; Women; Safety-belts; Training; Office-workers
Publication Date
Document Type
Field Studies; Fatality Assessment and Control Evaluation
Funding Type
Cooperative Agreement
Fiscal Year
NTIS Accession No.
NTIS Price
Identifying No.
FACE-95WI062; Cooperative-Agreement-Number-U60-CCU-507081
SIC Code
Source Name
National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health
Performing Organization
Wisconsin Department of Health & Family Services