September 20, 2017
The Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) released the Report on Investigation regarding the Fatal Fall of Material Accident that occurred on March 14, 2017 at Trinity Materials, Inc.‘s Cottonwood #1204 Mine in Ferris, Texas. Julio C. Flores, a 52-year-old customer truck driver with 13 years of driving experience and seven years frequenting this particular mine, was fatally injured when he left the cab of his truck, walked to the rear of the trailer, and was engulfed by sand dumped from the trailer.
Flores arrived at the sand mine on March 14 at approximately 5:30 a.m. to get a load of concrete sand. He went to the load out area and a a front end loader operator loaded two buckets of concrete sand into Flores’ end dump trailer. Once loaded, Flores traveled to the scale to receive his invoice. The scale house operator told Flores that he would need to get an empty weight of the truck and trailer because company policy states “an empty weight is required every 14 days.” Flores drove his tractor trailer to the designated area where drivers are instructed to dump. That was the last time anyone at the mine site had contact with the victim until his body was discovered at 11:43 a.m.
With no eyewitnesses to the accident, MSHA‘s investigation concluded that Flores set the park brakes on the end dump trailer, engaged the trailer’s power take-off, and set the truck’s engine to 1,600 rpms so the trailer would ascend faster. He then exited the cab wearing his hard hat, but carrying his safety vest and gloves, and walked beside the truck to release the dump gate. As the trailer was rising, Flores, apparently, walked to the rear of the dump trailer and was engulfed by the sand from the trailer.
At 10:56 a.m., the lead man at the site was notified by a miner that the truck and trailer had been in the same spot with the engine running and dump bed in the air for several hours. The lead man went to the truck, but could not locate the driver, so he called the plant manager. Mine employees began digging at approximately 11:20 a.m., and MSHA’s Dallas field office was notified that they had a man missing. Flores was found at the bottom of the sand pile. Mine employees began first aid on Flores, but he had no pulse. First responders arrived at the scene a short time later. Autopsy results noted the cause of death as mechanical asphyxia and smothering.
Company Policy/Procedures Training at the plant is required for for all customer truck drivers, which include observe and obey all traffic control signs, speed limits, warnings and exits; when necessary, to get out of your vehicle, park in a designated parking area; never exit the vehicle when being loaded; and do not stand behind equipment while unloading.
Root Cause: The customer truck driver failed to stand clear of the trailer gate while unloading material.
Corrective Action: Evaluate the effectiveness of Site-Specific Hazard Awareness Training provided to customer truck drivers to ensure that all hazards associated with each task are identified and understood. Customer truck drivers should follow warning signs and equipment labels and follow company’s policies and procedures while on mining properties.
Conclusion: A customer truck driver was engulfed in sand when he walked behind his tractor trailer while dumping a load of concrete sand. The accident occurred because the customer truck driver did not maintain a safe distance from the rear of trailer where the sand material was being unloaded.