Posted with permission from Confined Space, a newsletter of workplace safety and labor issues.
This case resulted from an employer’s contest of a citation for violations related to the gruesome death of a day laborer who was dragged into a wood-chipper in Guilderland, New York on May 4, 2016. The employer, Tony Watson, owner of Countryside Tree Care, is contesting one willful and four serious citations totaling $141,811 related to the death of Justus Booze, a 23-year old day laborer halfway through his first day on the job.
Read the article. The case describes many of the themes one typically hears in cases like this — a tragic death, blaming the worker, claiming it was an unavoidable accident, and the search for justice:
The citation states that:
at the three worksites on May 4, 2016, Watson and his crew engaged in unsafe practices, including leaning into and reaching into the infeed hopper; standing to the left of the wood, on the left of the center line of the infeed hopper; pushing small pieces of wood and branches in by hand; and standing in front of the wood chipper, with their backs to it, while manipulating large tree limbs into the infeed hopper.
According to OSHA
Since 2011, industry workers have suffered a six-fold increase nationally in the number of amputations – from 0.5 per 10,000 workers to 3.3 per 10,000 workers. Since 2015, OSHA has received 19 severe injury reports related to wood chippers with injuries including amputations and head trauma. Of those, five occurred because the chipper pulled fingers or arms directly into the blades, and four occurred when a machine’s belt or pulley caught a body part and pulled it in. The last available report on wood chipper safety shows – from 1996 through 2005 – 39 workers died in wood chipper incidents. Of those fatalities, 78 percent saw workers caught in the chipper and most of the remainder resulted from “struck-by” accidents.
More information can be found on wood chipper safety here.
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