Just within the last few weeks, at least three workers with landscape companies in Louisiana, Arkansas and Texas have been killed on the job when the riding mowers or tractors overturned into a stream bed or other source of water. This sudden spate of fatalities has caught the attention of the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). For perspective, according to OSHA records, before March 21, when the first of the three occurred in Austin, there had been a total of three deaths in the same three states over the course of six years; one in 2015 and one in 2014, and you have to go back to 2010 for the one previous to that.
Therefore, OSHA is thoroughly investigating all three accidents. The fact that the current landscaping and mowing season is just getting started has them worried, so they are warning workers and landscaping companies that workers have to be fully trained and aware of the safety hazards of operating riding mowers, especially when it comes to working on embankments and slopes.
In the first accident, which involved a worker for Austin-based Clean Scapes LP of Austin, Texas, that mower overturned and pinned its operator in a ditch containing more than two feet of water. In the second, which happened on April 1, a worker with Land Design Inc. of Little Rock, Arkansas was thrown into water when the mower he was riding slid 52 feet down an embankment into a creek. The third involved a worker with Bracy’s Nursery LLC of Amite, Louisiana, whose mower rolled over into a creek, pinning him. OSHA has not been able to confirm that the creek bed in the third incident had water in it.
There need to be thorough investigations of the circumstances surrounding each of these incidents because there are a lot of questions that need to be answered. For example, were these mowers defective somehow and had they been recalled by the manufacturer and, if so, did the landscaping company have the needed repairs performed? Another question involves whether or not the landscaping companies maintained these mowers in good working order. It’s also necessary to know that the mower operators were properly trained and whether they were provided with every piece of equipment they needed to keep them as safe as possible, such as a hardhat. If they died because they hit their heads on a rock and knocked unconscious, a hardhat may have saved their lives.
All employers have an absolute duty to provide their workers with the safest possible work environment, which means there is a good possibility that these companies or others may be found liable for the tragic deaths of these workers. If you or someone you love has been injured or tragically killed in a workplace accident involving a riding mower or any other piece of machinery, call the Workplace Injury Lawyer at the Hill Law Firm today for a free consultation, so that we can evaluate the facts of the case and help you recover for damages and protect your rights under the law.