Summary: A 16-year-old employee was fatally crushed while trying to clear a blockage on a hazardous machine.
The incident: When he was offered a job at Florence Hardwoods in Florence, WI, Michael Schuls, 16, jumped at the chance to earn a few extra bucks during his summer vacation. After all, once school resumed, he’d be busy with schoolwork and the four sports he played at Florence High School.
One day, Schuls was told to stack some lumber at the mill. His boss left him alone in the building to handle the task while the manager operated a forklift outside.
Schuls was putting the pieces of lumber in position next to a stacking machine when he noticed that a piece of wood had jammed in the machine. Even though there was an emergency shutoff button located near the dangerous device, Schuls hadn’t been trained in procedures for clearing jams, so he didn’t shut down the equipment.
As Schuls worked hard to remove the blockage, the conveyor he was standing on suddenly activated and pushed him into the stacking machine’s rotating parts.
The response: About 17 minutes later, Schuls’ manager returned to the work area and found Schuls trapped. He shut down the stacking machine, removed Schuls’ body and called 9-1-1. However, the teenager’s injuries were too severe, and he was declared dead two days later from traumatic asphyxiation.
The aftermath: After Schuls’ death, his brother Kaden Schuls posted a message on Facebook stating that he’d do anything to see his little brother’s smirk again. “You didn’t deserve this,” wrote Kaden. “It breaks my heart knowing the pain you had to go through. You’re just a kid – one who was loved by everyone who knew you.”
(From the July 24, 2023, issue of Safety Alert for Supervisors. To start your no-obligation trial subscription to the publication right now, please click here.)