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Male maintenance worker buried and suffocated in sand hopper.

Minnesota Department of Health
Morgantown, WV: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Public Health Service, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, FACE 93MN001, 1993 Jun; :1-5
A 39-year-old male maintenance worker (victim) at a ready-mix concrete batch plant suffocated after falling into or entering a sand hopper and being buried by approximately 9 feet of sand. There were no witnesses and no personal protective equipment was being used by the victim at the time of the incident. Six cement ingredient hoppers, approximately 6 x 12 feet wide and 15 feet deep, were being cleared in preparation for spring start-up operations. They were located in an unheated mixing tower about 30 feet above the control room level. A caged, outdoor ladder led from the control level to the mixing tower. A window in the control room allowed plant operators to watch while ingredients emptied from the bottom chutes of the hoppers during the weighing process. When sand ceased to flow from one of the sand hoppers, the victim proceeded to the mixing tower to dislodge sand which had stuck to its sides. A steel pole approximately 7 feet long was used for this process. The victim either fell into the hopper from a catwalk spanning one side of its open top or descended into it to gain better access to sand near the bottom of the hopper. While he was in the hopper, the lodged sand released and he was buried. Plant personnel in the control room observed the steel pole falling from the hopper's bottom chute to the control level. When the victim could not be located in the mixing tower a 911 call was placed. Rescuers recovered the victim at the bottom of the hopper about 30 minutes after he was last seen; he died from suffocation. MN FACE investigators concluded that, in order to prevent similar occurrences, the following guidelines should be followed: 1. employees should be trained to recognize and avoid the hazards of confined spaces. The necessity of personal protective equipment use and the presence of a properly equipped stand-by person during entry should be stressed; 2. fall protection should be used when working above confined spaces such as open-top tanks and hoppers; 3. employees should be protected from the engulfment hazards of open- topped hoppers by installing hopper covers to prohibit entry; and 4. mechanical devices should be installed to loosen material from sides of hoppers.
Region-5; Accident-analysis; Accident-prevention; Accidents; Injuries; Injury-prevention; Traumatic-injuries; Work-operations; Work-analysis; Work-areas; Work-performance; Work-practices; Safety-education; Safety-equipment; Safety-measures; Safety-monitoring; Protective-measures; Protective-equipment; Maintenance-workers; Personal-protective-equipment; Personal-protection; Cement-industry; Training; Confined-spaces
Publication Date
Document Type
Field Studies; Fatality Assessment and Control Evaluation
Funding Type
Cooperative Agreement
Fiscal Year
NTIS Accession No.
NTIS Price
Identifying No.
FACE-93MN001; Cooperative-Agreement-Number-U60-CCU-507283
SIC Code
Source Name
National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health
Performing Organization
Minnesota Department of Health
Page last reviewed: September 2, 2020
Content source: National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health Education and Information Division