Cause of Death
The cause of death, according to the death certificate, was blunt trauma.
The CA/FACE investigator determined that, in order to prevent future incidents, employers should ensure that operators of excavators with quick coupling devices:
Recommendation #1: Always lower the bucket to the ground before exiting the cab.
Discussion: In this incident, the victim left the cab while the boom and bucket were still elevated. If operators become aware that the bucket is not operating properly, they should always lower the bucket to the ground before inspecting. If the bucket had been lowered to the ground, it would not have disconnected and fallen on the victim.
Recommendation #2: Never walk/traverse beneath an excavator boom swing radius or elevated load.
Discussion: In this incident, the victim exited the cab and walked underneath the elevated bucket. All heavy equipment poses serious—even potentially fatal—risks to operators and others working in the vicinity. The relatively quick and far-reaching motion of the boom and bucket on an excavator is a particular source of danger. Manufacturers of excavators advise that no one should walk below an elevated load or work within the boom swing radius during operation. If the victim had not walked under the elevated load, he would not have been struck by the bucket.
Recommendation #3: Train hydraulic excavator operators in the proper procedures for engaging excavation attachments and incorporate these procedures into the company's safety and health program.
Discussion: In this incident, the victim had received OJT training on how to operate the excavator. There was no documentation that he received specific instruction on the operation of quick couplers. If the victim had received increased training on excavator operations, he may have had greater knowledge about how quick couplers function and the the proper safety procedures to follow. With additional training, the victim may have lowered the boom to the ground, thereby preventing this incident.
California Division of Occupational Safety and Health - Title 8 regulations - Subchapter 7. General Industry Safety, Group 2. Safe Practices and Personal Protection. Article 7. Miscellaneous Safe Practices
California Division of Occupational Safety and Health - Title 8 regulations - Subchapter 4. Construction Safety Orders. Article 6. Excavations -§1541. General Requirements.
Preventing Injuries When Working with Hydraulic Excavators and Backhoe Loaders (NIOSH Publication No. 2004-107)
Australian Institute of Health and Safety (AIHS) Newsletter: Safety warning over semi-automatic quick hitches on excavators
Safework Australia: Quick-hitches for earthmoving machinery (August 2016).
Wisconsin FACE Report 03WI003: Laborer Dies After Being Struck by Detached Excavator Bucket
Plant Assessor Quick Hitch - SafeWork NSW position paper
Hank Cierpich, FACE Investigator
Robert Harrison, MD, MPH, FACE Project Officer
Laura Styles, MPH, Research Scientist
July 2, 2021