Hispanic Farm Laborer Struck by 550-gallon Water Tank When Wood Support Structure Collapsed, Michigan
Michigan Case Report: 11MI059
Report Date: 06/04/2013
In the spring of 2011, a Hispanic male farm laborer in his 60s died when an elevated wooden structure with a nearly full 5½-foot diameter by 3½-foot tall plastic, 550-gallon water tank gave way causing the water tank to land on him. Both the decedent and the farm owner were on the incident site but working on independent tasks on opposite sides of the 13-acre blueberry/potted plant farm operation. The water tank was located on top of a storage platform built by the decedent approximately three years previously. The storage platform was constructed of construction common-grade lumber. Four 4”x 6” corner posts were 52” tall and flush with the ground. For both the upper platform to support the water tank and the bottom platform to provide off-ground storage, the decedent used 2×6 wood planks. A polyethylene plastic material was installed to cover three sides of the structure to create and protect the storage area under the upper platform/tank. The nails used for the structure’s assembly were not galvanized nails. The event was not witnessed. The sheriff’s office determined that the wooden platform collapsed on the decedent and pinned him under the water tank, perhaps while he was retrieving tools. The owner heard the sound of the crash and came to the area where he found the decedent under the tank. The owner called a neighbor who then called for emergency response. Emergency response arrived and the decedent was transported to a local hospital where he died several days later from the injuries sustained at the time of the incident. A beer can was found at the structure’s open side.
- Water tank weighing approximately 5,000 pounds fell onto decedent.
- Improper construction of support structure.
- Outdoor rigid frame structures/platforms constructed with outdoor-rated, pressure-treated lumber should have the appropriate lumber strength, bracing, and fasteners to withstand at least two times the weight of the supporting mass.
- Farm-built, outdoor, pressure-treated lumber wood support structures should be inspected at least annually for evidence of wood decay and structural deficiencies.
- Employers should consider measures that contribute to a drug-free work environment, including the development and implementation of an alcohol-and drug-free workplace program, particularly for jobs related to machine and motor vehicle operation.