Silverthorne construction fatality may have been caused by equipment blind spot, inspectors say
Federal regulators are conducting an inquiry into the death of a 20-year-old road worker who was killed north of Silverthorne last week, an accident that may have been partly due to a blind spot on a piece of heavy machinery, an official confirmed.
Cort Michael Dursey, of Escalante, Utah, was killed on Thursday afternoon, June 15, after a rotomiller paving machine ran over him while backing up during resurfacing work on Colorado Highway 9.
“It sounds like there may have been a blind spot that could’ve contributed to the fatality because the vehicle was in the process of backing up,” said Bob Klostermann, assistant area director of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s Denver office.
OSHA compliance officers were immediately dispatched to the scene last Thursday to open an inquiry, he said, which is standard procedure whenever a worker is killed on the job.
Klostermann said on Thursday, June 22, that OSHA officers were still pursuing some fieldwork but had not yet interviewed other workers, potential witnesses or Dursey’s employer, the Utah-based Coughlin Company. Klostermann said the company was fully cooperating with OSHA.
A phone message left with the Coughlin Company was not immediately returned on Friday, June 23.
An online OSHA database shows only one other accident inspection for the company dated 2007, when it paid a $1,500 for a flammable and combustible liquids violation. No other details were available.
A spokeswoman for the Colorado Department of Transportation, Tracy Trulove, confirmed that the Coughlin Company was being subcontracted by the agency for the resurfacing work and was still operating on Highway 9.
CDOT ordered a two-day safety stand-down after the accident but work continued on Tuesday, June 20, Trulove said.
The rotomiller involved in last week’s accident — which travels on tank-like treads and rips up asphalt — was still being used on Highway 9, Trulove said. A new crew had been called in to finish the work, which is set to continue next week, she said.
Klostermann said that OSHA had not yet scheduled interviews with the previous crew out of respect for the grieving process.
OSHA only issues citations and fines if it determines that specific workplace safety regulations were violated. Otherwise, Klostermann said, the agency typically delivers safety recommendations.
“We’re really focused on preventing this from occurring in the future and implementing processes to keep people out of blind spots,” he said. “The vehicle was in the process of backing up, and typically if there is a blind spot you want to have a spotter or a back-up alarm.”
It was not yet clear, he said, whether or not there was a spotter or a back-up alarm activated during last week’s accident.
“At this point we don’t particularly know,” he said. “We still need to conduct those interviews.”
According to OSHA statistics, there were 937 total construction worker deaths in 2015, the most recent year where fatalities are broken down by type. Of those, 67 were classified as “caught-in” or “caught-between” accidents.
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