Fatality From Rotating Disc On Excavator



On a winter day in the Pacific Northwest an equipment operator trimming brush alongside a logging road died after he was apparently pulled into a rotating disc used to cut brush. He was using an excavator with a disc cutting attachment on the boom.

Personal Characteristics

The victim was an experienced equipment operator. He was working alone.

Unsafe Acts and Conditions

The engine of the excavator was idling. The 400-lb cutting head had power to it and was rotating just above idle. At some point, the victim left the operator’s seat of the excavator and approached the rotating cutting disc attached to the end of the boom.

Accident / Injury

It appears the victim may have grabbed a tree branch stuck in the cutting head and was likely pulled into the rotating disc, suffering injuries that were immediately fatal. Because the victim was working alone, he was not found until three hours after the end of his shift.

Recommendations for Correction

  • Make sure workers are trained on and uselockout/tagout procedures for machinerythey will be using.
  • When operating machinery powered by ahydraulic system, make sure all thehydraulics are disabled before getting out ofthe cab, particularly if the engine is leftrunning
  • Have workers inspect and maintainequipment before using it.
  • Train workers who operate equipment likethat used in this incident on the hazardsposed by getting too close to any rotatingdisc.
  • For employees who work alone, develop acheck-in/check-out procedure. A formal planfor checking on employees working alonecan be critical for adequate emergencyresponse time.