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Village employee, 21, killed in accident with riding lawnmower

Worker under vehicle while jack gave way: police


(Canadian OH&S News) — Occupational health and safety authorities with the Alberta Ministry of Labour (MOL) are investigating the death of an employee of the Village of Dewberry, which occurred on the afternoon of June 13.

The incident took place sometime before 1:45 p.m. that day, according to MOL spokesperson Kathy Kiel. At about that time, the 21-year-old woman was found fatally injured underneath a riding lawnmower under which she had been doing some maintenance work.

The Ministry was notified “at about 4:30 on the 13th and was onsite at about 8:30 that evening,” said Kiel. “Occupational health and safety investigators are looking into this.”

The Kitscoty branch of the RCMP was contacted at about 2:45 p.m., said Juan Huss, the sergeant in charge of the detachment.

“A member of the public was walking down the street,” explained Sgt. Huss, “and he noticed a person underneath one of these large riding lawnmowers. So he quickly ran across the street, because these things weigh about 1,200 pounds. He quickly ran across the street to the fire department and asked for help.”

The firefighters retrieved the worker from under the vehicle, but she had no pulse, so they began performing cardiopulmonary resuscitation on her until emergency medical services arrived, added Sgt. Huss. She was pronounced dead shortly afterwards.

The victim had been hired by the Village of Dewberry to performance maintenance on its equipment, he said.

“The jack that lifts up the mower has two safety pins on it, and apparently, the top safety pin was in place, but the bottom safety pin was not there, causing the thing to be unstable, and the person was working underneath the mower deck, and it landed on her.”

Sgt. Huss said he had never heard of this type of riding-lawnmower accident in the area before, although there had been similar accidents with other types of vehicles. “We have had people that have worked on their vehicles, and they’ve put it up on jacks, but not properly blocked it up, and the vehicle has fallen on people,” he said.

He described the lawnmower in this accident as a “fairly heavy” vehicle. “I think it had a 60-inch deck on it,” he noted, “and we looked at the specs they worked with, between 1,200 and 1,400 pounds.”

Dewberry is located about 200 kilometres east of Edmonton, near the Saskatchewan border.

The Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety offers the following tips on its website for working underneath vehicles with jacks:

— Inspect jacks and make sure they are in good operating condition before use;
— Put each jack on a dry, clean and level surface at a right angle to the vehicle to be lifted;
— If the vehicle has an automatic transmission, shift it to park or low gear and apply the parking brake;
— Never load a jack beyond its capacity or for a non-vertical lift;
— Never work in a spot where you could be pinned between the wall and the operating handle if the jack or vehicle shifts;
— Place safety stands under the vehicle to support it and never get under a vehicle supported only by a jack;
— Apply chocks to the wheel on the diagonal from the wheel being lifted;
— Have a colleague check on the worker at regular intervals if the worker is alone;
— Have a qualified person inspect jacks on a regular basis; and
— Report any jack defects and take the jack out of service until a qualified inspector approves of it again.