Incident summary: The leader of a two-person work crew thought it would be OK to drink nearly two bottles of whiskey and then operate a wood chipper.
The damage: Even though it wasn’t yet noontime, the leader of a two-person work crew was consuming whiskey in the truck on the way to a job site.
The men had been charged with removing trees that had already been felled by a different crew. For nearly ten hours, the two employees fed trees and branches into a wood chipper. All the while, the crew leader continued to drink whiskey.
It was near the end of the day and there was only one tree remaining. By this time, however, the crew leader was unsteady on his feet and staggering around. Nevertheless, the coworker allowed his boss to feed the last tree into the chipper.
The crew leader was using his hands to push branches into the chipper. Suddenly, his arm became entangled in the in-feed mechanism, and he was pulled into the unit’s rotating blades.
When the coworker heard a strange sound from the chipper, he walked over to see what was going on. The man observed his boss halfway inside the machine. He dialed 9-1-1, but by the time paramedics arrived, the crew leader was already dead.
Findings: The police found an empty fifth of whiskey and another half-empty fifth of whiskey in the vehicle the crew had used to get to the work site.
A toxicology report prepared by the coroner showed the victim’s blood alcohol level to be 0.331%.
The employer should’ve developed procedures for allowing employees to flag drunk coworkers, even when the inebriated individual happened to be the boss.
(From the April 27, 2020, issue of Safety Alert for Supervisors. To download the rest of the issue, please click here.)