A mechanic was killed while repairing a large excavator by himself because his employer didn’t have a lone work policy, according to state investigators.

On April 7, 2023, the mechanic was tasked with installing a swing drive into an excavator used on a construction site. Because of the work to be done on the excavator was de-energized before the mechanic began working. The 36-year-old mechanic was found dead from asphyxiation, having been trapped in a head-down position for hours during his attempt to install a swing drive into the excavator while he was alone.

The mechanic had been working for the employer for about three weeks, but he had several years of experience as both a heavy equipment operator and a mechanic.

FACE investigators found that:

  • The mechanic had prior experience installing excavator swing drives
  • Ratchet straps, a come-along, and other tools for the job posed trip hazards near the swing drive compartment
  • The boom side operator’s cab window was shattered when the incident happened, and
  • The employer had no written safety policy for lone workers.

To prevent a similar incident, FACE investigators recommended developing and enforcing policies that:

  • Prohibit lone work and instead require using a buddy system where workers team up and can help each other if someone is endangered,
  • Require a formal job hazard analysis to be conducted jointly by supervisors and workers to identify hazards for lone work,
  • Provide and require the use of lone worker monitoring technology or communication procedures if lone work is unavoidable, and
  • Require supervisors to routinely observe workers to ensure they’re following safety policies and procedures.

About the Author


Pete Nemmers

Pete Nemmers serves as NASP’s Director of Training Development, bringing a wealth of expertise to the organization. With a background rooted in safety and training, Pete plays a pivotal role in shaping the training programs offered by NASP. Pete ensures that NASP remains at the forefront of safety education, equipping professionals with the knowledge and skills necessary to navigate and excel in the dynamic field of safety.
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