Safety watch: Operating and working near augers

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Updated Nov 7, 2018

Auger Safety WatchThe accident: A newly hired landscape worker arrived at the work site to dig the last post hole for a fence in a landscaped area covered with mulch. He did not inspect the area and was not aware of the landscape fabric beneath the mulch.

Consequently, the landscape fabric was not cut to accommodate the 16-inch auger before drilling. Although the 1961 truck-mounted auger was originally equipped with a platform, it had been removed, forcing the operator to stand on the mulch while operating the auger. As the rotating auger penetrated the mulch, it entangled the landscape fabric. The operator lost his footing and was drawn into the point of operation where the auger entered the soil. The operator sustained severe injuries, including amputation of both legs, and later died as a result.

What the expert says: Tchukki Andersen, staff arborist for the Tree Care Industry Association headquartered in Londonderry, New Hampshire, says the new hire in this accident should not have operated the machinery until he went through extensive training on operation and safety procedures.

“The trainer needs to be qualified and competent to instruct such a course, and a written record of the training should go into the employee’s training file,” Andersen says. The other obvious hazard was the use of older equipment.

“An operator’s manual for the specific model of equipment should be on the jobsite,” Andersen says. “Operators should refer to the manual, especially before the first use, in order to familiarize themselves with the machine and safe operations.” Recommended safety measures:

• Ask for training on equipment if you are unsure of how to operate it.
• Never modify equipment or disable safety controls.
• Always wear your personal protective equipment, and make sure the site you are working on is free from hazards before you begin.
• Look for obstacles that may need to be removed. Hand digging may verify the presence or absence of underground material, including utilities.
• Follow the instructions in the manufacturer’s operating and preventive-maintenance manual. If the manual has been lost, contact the equipment manufacturer and request another one.
• Only the operator should be near the auger when it is in use.
• If you are using hand tools, do not move or remove spoil-pile while the auger is operating.
• Do not hesitate to bring equipment problems to the attention of your supervisor.
• Sit or stand at the operator’s station while operating an auger. Remain a safe distance (a mini- mum of 10 feet) from the auger when helping the operator.

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