The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration is urging contractors to be cautious when using powered augers after an accident investigation led to research showing 13 deaths in two decades. In a recent bulletin, OSHA warns that an auger can become entangled with hidden landscaping fabric or contact utility lines, leading to deaths.

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  • OSHA created the bulletin after officials from the agency’s Wilkes-Barre, Pa. office investigated a fatality at the site of a newly constructed building. A subcontractor had been hired to install a security fence and one post-hole remained to be dug in an area covered with mulch. The operator of the 16-in. auger didn’t inspect the area and didn’t know that landscape fabric had been placed on the ground beneath the mulch.

    Altered equipment also played a role. The platform for the operator had been removed from the 46-year-old truck-mounted auger, forcing the operator to stand on the mulch. As the auger penetrated, it entangled the landscape fabric under the mulch and drew it in. The worker lost his footing and also was drawn into the auger, which cut off his legs. He died later of the injuries.

    OSHA discovered that since 1987 there have been 13 auger-related deaths from entanglement, crushing hazards, or contact with overhead or underground electrical equipment and utility lines.