Fertilizer Company Worker Crushed to Death by Falling Concrete Ecology Block, Washington

Washington Case Report: 12WA701
Release Date: August 29, 2016
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 February 2012, a 56-year-old heavy equipment operator working for a fertilizer distribution company died when a concrete “ecology block” weighing approximately 4000 pounds fell from a retaining wall, crushing him.

On the day of the incident, the victim and other employees had been unloading bulk fertilizer from rail cars and moving it into a large steel storage tank. The interior of the tank was partitioned into containment bays using stacked concrete ecology blocks to separate the different materials. Semi-truck trailers filled with bulk fertilizer were driven into the storage tank and backed into a containment bay, which was bordered on three sides by ecology block walls. Using a mobile conveyor belt system, or piler, connected to the rear of the trailer, fertilizer was unloaded into a pile on the floor. As the pile grew larger, an employee operating a front end loader would push the material to the back of the bay.

In the early evening, the victim and one other employee were working to unload the last truck of the day. The victim was operating the front end loader, pushing fertilizer further into the bay after it dropped from the conveyor. At one point, the victim stopped the front end loader and went to investigate whether material was leaking through the rear wall of the bay. He climbed onto and walked along the ecology block wall to the back wall of the bay, which blocked a large opening in the tank. The second worker in the tank shut off the piler and heard several loud booms. He yelled for the victim, but there was no answer. He ran up the pile and saw that the blocks had collapsed, so he ran outside and around the storage tank and found the victim pinned by a fallen block against the wall of the tank. He yelled to another employee to call 911.

Investigators suspect that the victim saw that material was leaking between the blocks of the wall and climbed down a ladder on the back of the tank to take a closer look. The victim was apparently trying to brace the unstable block wall with some long pieces of lumber when it collapsed. The top block of the wall fell directly onto the victim’s head and neck, crushing him against the wall of the storage tank. First responders arrived within five minutes, but the victim was declared dead at the scene.

Fertilizer Company Worker Crushed to Death by Falling Concrete Ecology Block, Washingtonpdf icon [PDF 617 KB]

Page last reviewed: September 27, 2018