OSHA is investigating the death of a worker in Florida who was pulled into a wood chipper.
Hernan Gutierrez, 42, worked for Tree Techs, Inc., of Pembroke Pines, FL. Police say Gutierrez was either pulled or fell into a wood chipper at a work site in Davie, FL.
Gutierrez and two co-workers were clearing debris at a housing complex for seniors when he went through the machine that Davie Police Chief Capt. Dale Engle describes as “industrial size.”
Police say it was immediately evident to them Gutierrez had died when they arrived on the scene.
Tree Techs was a subcontractor of Green Horizon Services of Davie, FL — a commercial lawn and landscape management company.
The three workers had been trimming a stand of palm and melaleuca trees which the complex has done every June before hurricane season.
“The scene was gruesome, to see what the machine could do to a human being,” Capt. Engle said.
There were no witnesses to Gutierrez’s death.
Counseling has been made available for crew members who responded to the scene.
200+ injuries each year
Analysis of Bureau of Labor Statistics data regarding deaths and injuries caused by wood chippers by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) shows:
- From 1992-2002, 31 occupational injury deaths were attributable to mobile wood chippers (about three per year)
- 68% of the deaths were the result of being caught or compressed by the chipper
- 29% were the result of being struck by the machine or a machine part
- A third of these deaths each year happen during July and August
- During 1992-2001, 2,042 non-fatal injuries resulted from working with chippers (about 200 per year)
- Over a five-year period, 155 of these cases ended in amputations, and
- About a third of those injured had been on the job for less than a year when injured (16% less than three months, 18% 3-11 months).
The two primary risks associated with use of wood chippers are being caught in the rotating blades and being struck by flying objects, which include the chipper’s metal hood that can fly off if it contacts the rotating blades.
Personal protective equipment that employees should use while operating wood chippers includes:
- hard hat
- eye protection
- hearing protection
- safety boots, and
- close-fitting outer clothing (to prevent it from being caught in the machine).
Chippers should be inspected each day before use. The hood should completely cover the blades. Workers should ensure the blades come to a complete stop before opening the hood. People less than age 18 shouldn’t operate wood chippers.