State Faults County Dpw Safety

Worker Killed In Tractor Accident Didn't Wear Seat Belt, Report Says

March 27, 1991|By Elise Armacost | Elise Armacost,Staff writer

A county employee was not wearing a seat belt last January when his tractor flipped and crushed him, said state investigators, who faulted the county's safety training program.

The Maryland Occupational Safety and Health Agency, in a report released Friday, cited Anne Arundel's Department of Public Works for two "serious" violations in connection with the Jan. 31 accident at the Sudley landfill on Nutwell Sudley Road in Deale.

The department was cited for three other unrelated serious violations and several minor infractions.

MOSH defines "serious" violations as those that could result in death or serious harm.

At the Sudley landfill, the county "did not furnish employment and a place of employment that were free from recognized hazards . . . likely to cause death or serious physical harm," the MOSH report says. The report focused on seat belts, saying employees at the landfill were not instructed in the maintenance and use of seat belts.

Nicholas Matthew Fillmann III, 29, was driving a tractor, known as a Caterpillar scraper pan, on a steep hill when it slid sideways, then flipped. Fillmannwas thrown to the bottom of the hill, and the tractor landed on top of him.

"It was a terrible accident," said Bob Loomis, assistant director of the Department of Public Works.

Using seat belts on heavy equipment "is not a terribly difficult operation," Loomis said. Though instructions for using seat belts are posted on the windshields of county equipment, the county now teaches all employees how to use seat belts, and a written seat belt policy is being drafted, he said.

The policy is simple, Loomis said: "If your vehicle is equipped with a seat belt, you should wear it."

State law exempts local governments from having to pay fines for safety violations, requiring only that they comply with state regulations.

The other serious violations, unrelated to the Jan. 31 accident, included:

* Failure to develop a written program for handling hazardous materials and failureto train and inform workers how to handle such materials at the timeof their initial assignment or when new chemicals are brought on site.

MOSH found improperly stored containers of oxygen and acetylene, used for welding.

* Failure to properly maintain safety mechanisms on a bench grinder, used to sharpen metal.

The less serious violations involved improper storage of gasoline and improper maintenance and inspection of the bench grinder.

All the violations have been corrected, Loomis said. "We have a heightened awareness of safety issues, and we're working to make our sites as safe as we can for employees," he said.

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