Drowning death at Hagerstown cement plant blamed on inadequate safety precautions

October 11, 2012|By DAN DEARTH |
  • A view of material storage towers at Holcim Inc. in Hagerstown. The U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration says the management of a cement company is to blame for a fatal accident at the facility in Hagerstown.
Herald-Mail file photo

An accident that resulted in the drowning death of a Clear Spring man at a Hagerstown cement plant in January is being blamed on the management’s failure to follow adequate safety precautions, the U.S. Department of Labor Mine Safety and Health Administration said.

Amy Louviere, Mine Safety and Health Administration spokeswoman, said the conclusion to the investigation in the death of Herman L. Weaver Jr. was issued Wednesday.

Officials said the accident occurred Jan. 27 when the skid loader that Weaver was driving plunged into a 5-foot-deep water hole at the Security Quarry off Security Road.

The quarry is owned by Holcim (U.S.) Inc.

The report concluded that “the accident occurred due to management’s failure to provide berms where the skid steer loader went over a drop-off into the stream bed. Additionally, there were no barricades or warning signs at the water hole where the hazard was not immediately obvious to the victim.”

Robin DeCarlo, a Holcim spokeswoman at corporate communications in Waltham, Mass., did not return a telephone message and two emails seeking comment.

Weaver, 69, was operating a skid loader at the plant on the afternoon of Jan. 27 when he backed the machine off a road and dropped about 18 to 20 inches into a stream bed, according to the report.

“Unable to gain the traction necessary to exit the stream bed, Weaver decided to travel to another location in an attempt to re-enter the road,” the report said. “Weaver traveled in reverse for approximately 67 feet and stopped the loader.”

The report said that Weavers’ co-workers believed he would re-enter the road at this point, but he started to back up again.

“The loader traveled another 54 feet in reverse and into an approximately 5-foot deep water hole previously dug in April 2011,” the report said. “The loader overturned onto its side and completely submerged into the water.”

The report said workers tried to free Weaver from the machine, but the loader’s arms were blocking the front door of the vehicle. Another front-end loader had to be used to pull the submerged loader from the water.

Weaver was removed from the cab of the loader and given cardiopulmonary resuscitation, according to the report. He then was taken to Meritus Medical Center east of Hagerstown, where he was pronounced dead later that afternoon. The report listed the cause of death as drowning.

The Mine Safety and Health Administration issued two citations to Holcim (U.S.) Inc. as a result of the accident. Louviere said fines associated with those citations would be assessed at a later date.

Weaver’s obituary said he was employed by Holcim, formerly the Marquette Cement Co., for 48 years.

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