September 1, 2008
Be sure to protect your fingers when working around chutes
Like most workers in the mining industry, drivers of ready-mix trucks are often in harm’s way as they fulfill their responsibilities during a normal workday. They drive large trucks on company property and possibly public routes – facing all the hazards of the road. They are exposed to wet concrete, which can burn and dry the skin; and they put together, take apart, and work around discharge chutes, the long troughs that transport ready-mix from the mixer to the job site. Chutes can be tricky.
Accidents related to the handling of delivery chutes on concrete mixers are responsible for many of the lost workdays of ready-mix operators. The risk factors include the design of the supports of the various components of the chute apparatus, the position of the supports and controls, the layout of the rear of the mixer, the state of the systems, and work practices. The most hazardous work for the operator related to chutes involves deploying and stowing them.
Earlier this year, a ready-mix driver at an aggregates operation was seriously injured when setting up his chutes. His was the first truck on the job, and he was simultaneously talking to the contractor as he prepared his truck to pour. He put his gloves on and started to connect the chutes. As he was getting ready to attach the third chute, he reached for the bottom with his left hand to pull it into the hooks. At the same time, he let go of the chute with his right hand, pinching his fingers squarely between the second and third chutes.
After six hours in the emergency room, where he was in extreme pain, he was allowed to go home. He was scheduled to return for surgery the next week. The doctor said he thought the driver had saved his finger from being severed by wearing heavy leather gloves.
Safety precautions highlighted by this incident include the following:
After this accident, the safety manager at this facility added more emphasis on this task to operator training. He also committed to altering the training trucks by painting the ends of chutes red to highlight this danger in hopes that new drivers will develop correct and safe habits from the start.
Another mixer driver’s finger recently was harmed when, as he was lowering a discharge drop chute, his finger was caught between the safety catch handle and the safety bar. The drop chute safety catch had been incorrectly fitted. The manufacturer had not supplied fitting instructions with the catch. The cut was serious and required stitches.
This incident highlights the necessity of ensuring that each truck’s chutes and safety mechanisms are properly fitted. A safety catch should be positioned to give clearance of 150 millimeters between the pivoting chute and the fixed chute.
Lessons to be learned in this case include the following:
Information contained in this article was provided through the Safety & Health Committee of the National Stone, Sand & Gravel Association.