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Employee dies from airborne shrapnel

Pile wood accident
Pile wood accident

Building material shattered and fatally struck a worker who was inside a structure several metres away.

A team leader died from shrapnel that became airborne and penetrated a storage shelter he was standing in.

“On 6 July 2022 a pile driving analyser load test was being carried out. The test involved a hammer hitting a pile with a plywood sheet acting as a cushion on top of the pile head,” the Workplace Safety and Health Council said in a safety alert.

“The impact of the hammer on the pile shattered the plywood sheet. A plywood fragment flew towards and struck an assistant construction manager who was in a shed located about 26 metres away.”

First responders were called to the scene and urgently transported the victim to a nearby emergency department. However, medical professionals were unable to stabilise his condition.

“He was sent to the hospital but passed away on 13 July,” the alert said.

Investigators believe plywood should never be used to cushion blows from pile driving analyser load testing due to the risk of shattering.

They recommend the following precautions:

  • use materials that will not fragment on impact like commercially available piling cushions made of cast nylon/polyamide or canvas mixed with plastic resin
  • install a piling drive cap over the pile head and cushion to secure the cushion and reduce fragmentation. A casement-type enclosure around the hammer and pile may also be used to contain any fragments
  • place monitoring equipment in a protected area at a safe distance from the test site. Consider using camera technology (e.g. wireless cameras, drones) to observe the PDA load test from afar
  • provide all workers in the test site with safety helmets, safety eyewear, safety boots, gloves, hearing protectors, coveralls and other personal protective equipment.

Click here to read the full safety alert.

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AMSJ April 2022