SWANA Beaver Chapter
Oregon & Idaho

Safety Incident: Conveyor Safety: September 2020

Incident Description

In September 2020, a worker was killed while performing their “regular cleaning” on the conveyors transporting compost material. It was this site’s common practice to “wipe” the conveyors while they were moving to keep up with production and their material is often sticky, so leaving the machinery on, it helped with pushing or pulling the material off of the belts. This would be performed with either a squeegee or a stick depending on the material and how wet it was while moving within their system. While the worker was sweeping this material, he was standing on a platform installed for daily maintenance, inspections, and it is common practice to have platforms close to moving machinery. While swiping this material with one of their sticks, his stick got caught on the lacing that was installed on the belt, pulling him into the system. As of right now, the death was either due to crushing or blunt force trauma.

Common lacing in compost applications:

While on site, the customer stated that they had OSHA Representatives there that were doing random inspections of maintenance procedures and trainings with his crew. This appears to be the second death in less than five years due to conveyors in the NW.

Vendor Response

As a vendor supplying conveyors into a number of industries, it is never common or good practice to not tag out/lock out conveyors while they are being maintained or cleaned. If there is any chance that a worker is going to be in contact with a conveyor, either by hand, tool, or visual inspection, lock out/tag out practices must be performed and the system de-energized (not just off) so work can be safely performed.

There are times that conveyor systems will need to have visual inspections done daily (maybe multiple times a day depending on material, tonnages, and situations) to ensure the system is running in the manner it was manufactured (checking for hot bearings to prevent thermal events, stuck material causing unnecessary buildup and premature failures), but this is to be done at a recommended distance. If a system has platforms to do these inspections, the platforms need to have OSHA compliant handrails, trip guards, and distance (recommended no closer than 4’ within moving parts when all guardrails are up).

It is also recommended to have shut off or emergency shut off procedures and options when on conveyors. These are meant to be a last ditch option if there is an incident, not a common safety option. 

As vendors, we recommend that these practices are reviewed with the crew as often as possible and stated around the machinery. Added to this, if it is possible, to only have a certain number of workers around the equipment that are properly trained and familiar with common practices. This helps with the longevity of the machinery, site safety, and overall efficiencies of production.

Submitted by Beaver Chapter’s Scott Haynes