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Truck driver suffocates when engulfed while clearing jammed woodchips being unloaded from an open top trailer with a movable floor unloading system - Massachusetts.

Massachusetts State Department of Public 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 08MA001, 2009 Apr; :1-9
On January 10, 2008 a 47-year-old male truck driver (victim) was fatally injured while unloading woodchips from his open top tractor-trailer unit via a movable floor unloading system. During the unloading process, it appears that the victim climbed to the top of the open trailer because the woodchip load had become jammed and he was going to clear the jam. Although the incident was un-witnessed, it appears that the victim stepped from the top of the trailer onto the woodchip pile. The woodchip pile gave way as he stepped onto it and he was engulfed and suffocated by the woodchips. A co-worker realized that the victim had not been seen in approximately 20 minutes and walked over to the victim's trailer. The co-worker found the victim in the discharged pile of woodchips at the rear of the trailer. A call was placed for emergency medical services (EMS) and to the local police department. EMS and the local police department arrived within minutes. The victim was pronounced dead at the incident location. The Massachusetts FACE Program concluded that to prevent similar occurrences in the future, employers should: 1.) Minimize product jamming by ensuring that trailers equipped with both cross stability bars and movable floor unloading systems are not loaded up to or above the cross stability bar. 2.) Ensure that trailers with movable floor unloading systems are either equipped with automatic sweeping tarps or that manual sweeping does not begin until after the entire trailer has been offloaded. 3.) Conduct routine hazard assessments of equipment and how tasks are completed to identify potential hazards to which workers are exposed. 4.) Identify all confined spaces and develop, implement, and enforce a permit space program for permit-required confined spaces, such as trailers loaded with woodchips. 5.) Provide employees frequent training on loading, unloading, and clearing jammed product from tractor trailers. Manufacturers of movable floor unloading systems should: 6.) Consider providing safety decal(s) that address the hazards of engulfment, clearing jams, and overloading trailers.
Region-1; Accident-potential; Accident-prevention; Accidents; Confined-spaces; Equipment-design; Equipment-operators; Injuries; Injury-prevention; Protective-equipment; Safety-education; Safety-measures; Safety-practices; Safety-programs; Training; Traumatic-injuries; Truck-drivers; Work-environment; Work-operations; Work-performance; Warning-signs
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-08MA001; Cooperative-Agreement-Number-U60-OH-008490
Priority Area
Healthcare and Social Assistance
SIC Code
Source Name
National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health
Performing Organization
Massachusetts State Department of Public Health
Page last reviewed: March 25, 2022
Content source: National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health Education and Information Division