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Solid waste compost facility worker dies, body is recovered in digester tube - Tennessee.

Lutz V; Yorgason A
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 2010-01, 2011 Aug; :1-12
On July 22, 2010, a 50-year-old worker was found deceased in a compost digester tube at a solid waste facility. The victim worked as a picker on a tipping floor. His duties were to separate compostable from non-compostable trash that was unloaded onto the tipping floor by residential and commercial waste haulers. Once the trash was separated, the compostable material was pushed into an open digester pit by a co-worker operating a front-end loader. A hydraulic ram located near the pit floor would then push the material into the digester tube. In this incident, the victim's shift had begun at approximately 7:00 am. Approximately three hours later coworkers became concerned because he was not at his workstation. Public safety officials were notified and arrived on the scene at approximately 12:15 pm. Emergency workers searched the worksite and surrounding area, as well as the accessible areas of the digester tubes. Three days later, the victim's body was discovered in one of the tubes approximately ten feet from the loading end. Note: Subsequent to the NIOSH field investigation, the medical examiner ruled that the victim had died of natural causes related to heart disease. However, since the investigation identified the presence of workplace safety and/or health hazards with the potential to cause serious injury to workers at solid waste facilities, it was decided to report the investigative findings in hopes of providing injury prevention information to employers and workers with similar work environments. Factors that may contribute to worker injury at solid waste facilities include procedures that place workers-on-foot near moving equipment, unguarded floor openings, limited communication and visual contact with mobile equipment operators, and working conditions that may include high concentrations of toxic gases and high temperatures. NIOSH investigators concluded that employers should: 1.) develop, implement and enforce traffic control and worker accountability procedures to ensure equipment and vehicle operators are aware of worker locations; 2.) install and maintain physical barriers that protect workers from falling through floor openings; and develop, train on, and enforce safe work practices when it is not possible to install physical barriers; 3.) develop, implement, and enforce a comprehensive occupational safety and health program that includes training workers in hazard recognition and the avoidance of unsafe conditions; 4.) ensure the working environment is free from harmful concentrations of toxic gases and, when possible, heat stress conditions.
Region-4; Accident-analysis; Accident-prevention; Accidents; Equipment-operators; Injuries; Injury-prevention; Occupational-safety-programs; Protective-measures; Safety-education; Safety-measures; Safety-practices; Safety-programs; Training; Traumatic-injuries; Work-areas; Work-environment; Worker-motivation; Work-operations; Work-performance; Work-practices; Toxic-gases; Heat-stress; Protective-measures; Protective-equipment; Surveillance
Publication Date
Document Type
Field Studies; Fatality Assessment and Control Evaluation
Funding Type
Fiscal Year
NTIS Accession No.
Identifying No.
FACE-2010-01; Grant-Number-T01-OH-008431
NIOSH Division
SIC Code
Source Name
National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health
Performing Organization
West Virginia University
Page last reviewed: March 18, 2022
Content source: National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health Education and Information Division