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Field technician dies when struck by geofoam block.

Michigan State University
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 06MI193, 2007 Oct; :1-8
On December 1, 2006, a 59-year-old male field technician died when a 24-inch high by 32-inch wide by 8-foot long expanded polystyrene (geofoam) block struck him in the head and chest. A 15-foot deep excavation had been dug as part of a brownfield redevelopment site to provide the foundation for an add-on to a large retail store. At the base of the excavation was a French drain system that permitted the water to be drained away. A part of the excavation had been laid with geofoam blocks and had already been ballasted with soil. The incident occurred on the section of geofoam foundation that was not ballasted. The French drain had backed up causing the geofoam blocks to float on the water. After the water was drained, a section of geofoam did not settle to grade. After entering the excavation and standing on the top layer of geofoam pad, the decedent spoke with a representative from the company that had laid the block (Company A) about upcoming work at the site. A wind gust of approximately 53 miles per hour (mph) came from the southwest direction. The force of the wind caused geofoam layer #3 to rise up about 12 feet like a wave. The wave of geofoam block collapsed and the wind began to blow the individual blocks at the decedent and the Company A employees who were removing the block from the pad. Six or more Company A employees and the decedent were struck by the wind-blown blocks. Emergency response was called when the decedent was found lying on the pad, bleeding from his nose and having difficulty breathing. The decedent was transported to a local hospital where he was declared dead. Recommendations: 1. Contractors should secure/ballast geofoam block edges in accordance with manufacturer specifications for installation and storage. 2. Construction employers should conduct a daily hazard assessment to determine if environmental working conditions have changed or will change. They should inform their employees of their findings and how the changing conditions may affect the work to be performed. 3. Trade groups involved in the manufacture and installation of geofoam should develop a guideline for geofoam applications as foundation material in excavations.
Region-5; Accident-analysis; Accident-potential; Accident-prevention; Accidents; Injuries; Injury-prevention; Safety-education; Safety-practices; Safety-measures; Traumatic-injuries; Work-practices; Work-analysis; Work-performance; Safety-monitoring; Safety-programs; Work-operations; Safety-measures; Safety-practices; Construction-workers; Construction-industry; Construction-materials
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-06MI193; Cooperative-Agreement-Number-U60-OH-008466
Priority Area
Wholesale and Retail Trade; Services
SIC Code
Source Name
National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health
Performing Organization
Michigan State University
Page last reviewed: December 17, 2021
Content source: National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health Education and Information Division