BRADENTON, FL – A 36-year-old mower operator drowned after the mower rolled over in a pond, pinning the worker underwater. Federal workplace safety inspectors determined the employer could have avoided the incident by following required safety measures outlined in the equipment operator’s manual.An investigation into the July 4, 2023, incident by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration found the employee of TruScapes Industries Inc. in Bradenton was riding a zero-turn lawnmower in a residential neighborhood when it tipped over into a water retention pond. Investigators learned the machine’s roll-over protection system was not engaged while operating on a sloping embankment near the pond and the equipment was operated on a slope that exceeded the limitations defined in the equipment manual.OSHA cited the employer for one willful violation for not having a rollover protection system in use and for operating the equipment on a steep slope, and one serious violation for not providing potable water for drinking. OSHA proposed $166,305 in penalties.The agency cited TruScapes after a similarly fatal incident in Bradenton in July 2015. In that investigation, OSHA issued TruScapes Industries five serious citations and proposed $18,200 in penalties.“Once again, TruScapes Industries’ failure to implement required safety measures has cost the life of a worker,” said OSHA Area Office Director Danelle Jindra in Tampa, Florida. “Employers are responsible for ensuring the correct equipment is used for each change in the work environment and that workers are protected from hazards associated with assigned job tasks.” A Bureau of Labor Statistics report shows 1,242 work-related fatalities occurred in the landscaping and groundskeeping industry from 2011-2022. Operating machines near water hazards, such as ponds and ditches, represents a known occupational hazard to landscape workers. Federal area offices in the southeast region have an active Regional Emphasis Program for Landscaping and Horticultural Services that aims to reduce fatalities and injury accident rates in this industry.Based in Bradenton, TruScapes Industries Inc. provides landscaping services to the surrounding area, while employing approximately 150 workers.The company has 15 business days from receipt of their citations and penalties to comply, request an informal conference with OSHA, or contest the findings before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.Visit OSHA’s website for information on developing a workplace safety and health program. Employers can also contact the agency for information about OSHA’s compliance assistance resources and for free help on complying with OSHA standards.
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