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Farmer Died When Front End Loader Bucket Struck Propane Tank Hidden by Snow

Michigan Case Report: 11MI006

The following report is the product of our Cooperative State partner and is presented here in its original unedited form from the state. The findings and conclusions in this report are those of the individual Cooperative State partner and do not necessarily reflect the views or policy of the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health.


In the winter of 2011, a male farmer in his 50s died when the bucket of the front-end loader he was using to clear snow from a driveway struck a 500-gallon propane cylinder, causing a fireball which engulfed the front end loader. Approximately six to eight months prior to the incident, the farm initiated a change in propane suppliers. The original propane supplier disconnected the tanks, including the incident tank, but did not pick them up from the property. The cylinder had been moved from its original location behind the home to the driveway’s turnaround area by the new propane supplier (Supplier 2) to provide easy access for Supplier 1 to haul away. The day and night prior to the incident, approximately 14 inches of snow fell. The decedent was either unaware of or forgot that the cylinder was on the driveway turnaround. It was dark when the incident occurred and the drifted snow may have hid the tank. The decedent made several passes with the loader. He struck the propane cylinder resulting in an 8-inch tall by 1-1 1/2-inch wide gash opening (Figure 1). It appears that releasing propane created a cloud which was ignited by either the heat of the front-end loader motor or a spark created by the metal on metal contact when the cylinder was struck by the bucket. The front-end loader was engulfed in flames from the resulting explosion. Emergency response was called and the decedent was transported to a nearby hospital where he died the next day from complications of the burn injuries sustained at the time of the incident.

Farmer Died When Front End Loader Bucket Struck Propane Tank Hidden by Snow [PDF 306 KB]