Safety and Health Article Archive

Unusual Accidents

By David F. Coble, CSP

"It was a freak accident." "Accidents just happen." "It couldn't have been prevented." You've heard those comments before.

In this article we'll talk about some bizaar workplace accidents that have happened over the years. You decide what you think about how preventable they may have been...

Messina, Italy: Three wine workers died in a tank of fermenting grape juice. Giovanni Anastasi grew dizzy from the fumes and fell into the 265 gallon tank. His partner, 73, tried to rescue him and fell in and drowned. The partner's daughter tried to rescue both of them and also fell in and drowned.
(Fall protection? Confined space?)

Buxton, NC: A vacationer digs a nine foot deep hole in the sand and dies when it caves in on him. A Cape Hatteras National Park spokesperson was quoted as saying the 21-year-old deceased man had dug this hole every year for 4 or 5 years "to see what he could find in the sand." The spokesperson was also quoted as saying "it was a very bizarre accident. I don't think anybody could have anticipated [it] happening."
(Could you? Sloping?)

Norberg, Sweden: Two young brothers (6 and 10) were crushed to death in a paper recycling container by the compactor. Police were quoted as saying the container had very small holes to reduce the chance of anyone getting inside the container.
(Small enough? Machine guarding? Security?)

Pittsburgh, PA: A prison inmate was electrocuted when he sat on an aluminum toilet wearing a pair of homemade headphones. The headphones were plugged into a television. He was serving a life sentence.
(Electrical practices? Grounding? Unapproved equipment?)

Little Rock, AR: Two men were returning from a frog gigging trip one night. Their pickup truck blew a fuse causing the headlights to go out. They didn't have another fuse, but discovered that a .22 caliber bullet fit the fuse cradle. The bullet soon overheated and discharged hitting the driver. The truck crashed and both men suffered minor injuries. One of the wives had only one question: "How many frogs did they get?"
(Electrical practices? Improper overcurrent protection?)

Mexico: A lady's hair was caught in the blades of a mixer in a salsa plant. She was pulled into the salsa and drowned.
(Machine guarding? Long hair around moving parts?)

Big Bear Lake, CA: A man was illegally cutting down a 100-foot tree for firewood. The tree fell and crushed his fiance and infant son to death as the man watched.
(Tree felling techniques? Safe distances?)

Port Angelo, WA: A man was mowing his lawn and drove over a 200-foot cliff to his death.
(Fall protection? Safe distances?)

Wellington, New Zealand: A woman was impaled on the handlebars of a riding lawn mower at a cemetery when a 6-foot embankment collapsed as she cut the grass. The lawnmower landed on top of her.
(Sloping to the angle of repose?)

Midwest, US: Five members of the same family died in a manure pit. A dairy farmer, his two sons, his grandson, and his nephew were all overcome during a rescue attempt of one of the sons.
(Confined spaces? Hazardous atmosphere?)

Some would ask "Where did these people leave their common sense? Couldn't they see the dangers?" These events will happen when the elements are in place. Our challenge is to educate our children and workers that if it can happen, it will happen.

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