Hispanic Worker Dies After Being Hit With a Projectile From a Nearby Commercial Lawnmower—North Carolina
NIOSH FACE Report 2013-04
March 31, 2016
On April 17, 2013, a 30-year-old male Hispanic lawn care worker was injured when struck in the head by a metal projectile from a coworker’s lawn mower. He died on April 18, 2013, from his injuries. The lawn care worker was trimming approximately 25 feet away from his coworker when the coworker ran over a pet tie-out stake with a lawn mower. The mower sheared off part of the stake, creating a projectile that struck the lawn care worker on the side of the head. The medical examiner identified the cause of death as blunt force trauma to the head.
Key contributing factors identified in this investigation include:
- Yard fixtures and debris present during mowing operations.
- Lawn mower discharge deflector facing toward individuals working nearby.
NIOSH investigators concluded that, to help prevent similar occurrences, employers should:
- Require a thorough examination of the work area for debris and fixtures before lawn mowing and require employees to flag or mark objects that cannot be removed.
- Implement a comprehensive safe work practice for lawn care as mentioned in the operating manual for the lawn care machinery (i.e., not pointing the discharge toward any persons or buildings and maintaining a safe distance away from others operating lawn care equipment).
- Consider adding a mulching chute attachment to lawn mowers to catch any potential projectiles.
Additionally, manufacturers of yard fixtures should:
- Consider using bright colors or flags to increase the visibility of yard fixtures, such as metal pet tie-out stakes placed in the ground.
Additionally, homeowners should:
- Remove pet tie-out stakes when they are not in use or purchase a tie-out stake that can be easily removed prior to lawn maintenance.
The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), an institute within the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), is the federal agency responsible for conducting research and making recommendations for the prevention of work-related injury and illness. In 1982, NIOSH initiated the Fatality Assessment and Control Evaluation (FACE) Program. FACE examines the circumstances of targeted causes of traumatic occupational fatalities so that safety professionals, researchers, employers, trainers, and workers can learn from these incidents. The primary goal of these investigations is for NIOSH to make recommendations to prevent similar occurrences. These NIOSH investigations are intended to reduce or prevent occupational deaths and are completely separate from the rulemaking, enforcement and inspection activities of any other federal or state agency. Under the FACE program, NIOSH investigators interview persons with knowledge of the incident and review available records to develop a description of the conditions and circumstances leading to the deaths in order to provide a context for the agency’s recommendations. The NIOSH summary of these conditions and circumstances in its reports is not intended as a legal statement of facts. This summary, as well as the conclusions and recommendations made by NIOSH, should not be used for the purpose of litigation or the adjudication of any claim. For further information, visit the program website at www.cdc.gov/niosh/face/ or call toll free at 1-800-CDC-INFO (1-800-232-4636).