The North Carolina Department of Labor is investigating the death of a 19-year-old worker who was killed after being pulled into a wood chipper his first day on the job.
Mason Cox was putting tree limbs into the wood chipper when other workers heard the machine bog down.
Jon Crawford, the owner of Crawford’s Tree and Stump Grinding Service, hit the kill switch and put the machine in reverse, but it was already too late.
Cox was pronounced dead at the scene, according to police.
Reports say he was pulled into the machine feet-first when he tried to kick a branch into the chipper.
The death sent his co-workers into shock. Crawford reportedly suffered a heart attack at the scene and had to be rushed to the hospital.
Crawford says Cox was a subcontractor, not an employee, and had been hired to help after being referred by his cousin.
Cox’s mother, Debra Sisk, told WBTV she questions whether her son was being supervised when the accident happened.
Preventing wood chipper fatalities
The National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) noted Cox’s death in a blog post which includes steps to prevent wood chipper fatalities.
NIOSH says some wood chippers are equipped with safety devices to reduce the risk of being pulled into the machine’s knives. These include feed control bars, bottom feed stop bars, panic bars and emergency pull ropes which are all designed to stop or reverse the feed mechanism if a worker becomes caught.
To protect workers from being caught by the chipper, NIOSH recommends:
- tests of all safety devices at the start of each work day
- proper training for all workers in safely operating the chipper
- at least two workers in close contact with each other when operating the chipper
- workers wear close-fitting clothes, gloves without cuffs, trousers without cuffs and skid-resistant shoes. All clothing should be tucked in
- workers feeding material are positioned at the side of the machine to allow quick operation of the emergency shut-off device and minimize the risk of entanglement in branches.
- workers walk away once the chipper has grabbed the material fed into it
- keeping the area around the chipper free from tripping hazards, and
- workers wear hard hats, eye protection and hearing protection.