Operator Killed when Horizontal Auger Boring Machine Overturned

New York Case Report: 11NY043

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 July 2011, a 46 year-old male equipment operator (victim) working for a trenchless utility installation contractor suffered fatal crushing injuries when a horizontal auger boring (HAB) machine overturned. At the time of the incident, the victim was installing three steel pipe casings using a trenchless method called pipe ramming at a municipal water project site. Each casing was 36 in (0.9 m) in diameter and 40 ft. (12 m) long. The casings were driven horizontally through the ground by a pneumatic ramming hammer. On the day of the incident, the victim was operating an HAB machine to bore inside the casings to remove earth material that filled the casings during installation. The machine was mounted on a track assembly and the track assembly was not anchored to the ground. The weight of the machine and the track assembly was 15,800 lbs. (7,167 kg). The victim was operating the machine at the operator’s platform located on the left side of the machine (when facing the casing). The incident occurred shortly after 10:00 am when the auger string had advanced approximately 11 ft. (3.4 m) into the casing. The HAB machine along with the track assembly suddenly pitched to the left roughly 90 degrees counterclockwise (Photo 1). Unable to jump free, the victim was pinned by the machine against the ground before the machine swung back to the upright position. Immediately the machine pitched to the left a second time, crushing the victim, and swung back upright before it pitched the third time and rested on its left side with the motor running and the victim pinned underneath. A coworker immediately called 911. Meanwhile an equipment operator at the site used an excavator to move the machine off the victim. The workers were able to turn the machine off and free the victim. They performed CPR on the victim until the EMS arrived. The victim died on route to the hospital as a result of severe crushing injuries.

Operator Killed when Horizontal Auger Boring Machine Overturnedpdf icon [PDF 536 KB]

Page last reviewed: November 18, 2015