Man Killed in Snow Clearing Accident

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The Daily Journal – January 13, 2011
NORTH BRUNSWICK — A Burlington County man who was cleaning a truck at a towing business was killed Wednesday when he was accidentally crushed by a flatbed that was being lowered, police said.

Thomas Serinese, 47, of Burlington Township, was pronounced dead at the scene soon after the accident at Coppa's Service Center and Towing.

Around 7 a.m., Serinese and another employee were clearing snow from one of the trucks when they raised the flatbed to cause the snow to slide off, police Lt. Roger Reinson said. At some point during the cleaning, the second employee hit the controls on the driver's side to begin to lower the flatbed, unaware of Serinese's whereabouts.

Serinese, who was on the passenger side, was apparently bent over to clean and became pinned between the truck's large tool box and the flatbed as it moved, suffering the fatal injuries, Reinson said

First aid personnel and medics were called to the scene before Serinese was pronounced dead. The accident is under investigation.

Working in teams or with a partner has many advantages, but it also brings about a risk as you are faced with “many cooks in the kitchen”. Often we rely solely on communications which can falter as they did in this situation. We rely on a warning buzzers, beacons or bells to communicate movement. They are not foolproof and must be recognized as such a warning. At this point we don’t know whether such a warning system was installed or working properly on this truck.

Some operations have a “hands up” policy where everyone on the machine or operation must raise their hands and be accounted for before anyone activates a device or control. This practice offers solid communications among everyone working in the area. It only takes a second to accomplish and can ensure everyone is out of harms way prior activating equipment.

Of course Lockout/Tagout is the best defense against such incidents. However, it would be a stretch to consider it mandated in this particular situation.

How about you? What are you doing to protect yourself and your coworkers from such an event? You may do a great job of lockout during those required activities, but what about the various upset conditions and non-routine tasks you perform during the day.

This toolbox topic was reviewed by ______________________________________ on ___________________________ with the following employees: