The National Park Service has taken steps to make sure there isn’t a repeat of an incident that claimed the life of one of its workers. Grass mowing at all 397 national parks has been suspended temporarily.
Earlier this month, Dana Bruce, 63, died while mowing grass at the Haw Creek Overlook along the Blue Ridge Parkway, north of Asheville, NC. He was trimming a 12- to 15-feet wide area between a guardrail and a cliff when he lost control of the riding mower and went over the edge.
Bruce fell more than 140 feet down an embankment strewn with boulders. He was pronounced dead at the scene. The Parks Service and OSHA are both investigating. The results of the investigations won’t be released for months.
The Parks Service first suspended lawn mowing in the region where the fatality took place. An order extended the suspension nationwide just days later.
It’s unclear how long the safety stand-down will last. It will be up to each park to decide when to resume mowing lawns. The parks have a safety review checklist to complete before mowing can resume.
A Parks spokesman says in the case of the smallest facilities, mowing might resume in a day. For some larger parks, it may be weeks until the grass is cut again. The duration depends on the size of the park, the amount of equipment and the number of employees.
From 2003 to 2007, an average of 13.3 per 100,000 employed grounds maintenance workers died each year, compared with an overall rate of 4.0 fatalities per 100,000 U.S. workers, according to the Centers for Disease Control.
The causes of deaths among grounds workers:
- transportation incidents, 31%
- contact with objects and equipment, 25%
- falls, 23%
- traumatic acute exposures to harmful substances or environments (e.g., electrocution and drowning) (16%).
The Parks Service manages land in 49 states. Only Delaware doesn’t have national park land.
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