OSHA launches probe into Aspen drill death
August 12, 2011
ASPEN – Authorities on Friday released the name of a man killed in a drilling accident outside of Aspen.
Greg Watson, 39, of Minneapolis was pronounced dead on the scene Thursday after his safety cord became tangled around the pole of a rock-drilling machine at a construction site. He was part of a crew doing reinforcement work on the retaining walls on the backside of the Le Chamonix condominium complex, located at 1501 Maroon Creek Road, across from Aspen Highlands ski area.
Over the years he had worked for Hayward Baker Geotechnical Construction, the project’s general contractor and a national firm that has an office in Broomfield, Colo. Watson had a girlfriend and it was not known if he had surviving children, said Renee Rayton of the Pitkin County Sheriff’s Office.
Federal law requires that work-related deaths be reported to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, a division of the U.S. Department of Labor. On Friday, an OSHA official was on the scene of the incident, interviewing workers, witnesses, deputies and others.
Speaking from his office in Denver, OSHA area director Herb Gibson declined to speak specifically about the probe. He did say, however, that “we have not done many investigations similar to this.”
Gibson said it could take several months before OSHA makes a conclusion on the cause of the accident.
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“Each case is handled on its own merits,” he said. “Between interviewing management and employees and the multiple companies involved in this, it does take time to get to the root cause of a tragic accident like this.”
He added: “Our prayers go out to the family.”
Pitkin County Sheriff’s Deputy Michael Kendrick, one of the first responders to the scene of the accident, after the call came in to Aspen Ambulance at approximately 3:30 p.m., said work has been suspended on the project. He said the scene is being preserved for the OSHA investigator, whom Gibson said may return to the site today.
The Sheriff’s Office, Kendrick said, has ruled out any possibility of criminal activity in connection to the fatality. Results of an autopsy, performed Friday at Aspen Valley Hospital, were not released as of press time.
According to Kendrick and other members of the Sheriff’s Office, the victim was attempting to fix the horizontal rock-drill before the accident happened. The drill was not working at the time, but when it turned on the man’s fall-prevention cord, it became caught in the drill’s poll, twisting him around and mangling his body. The drill remained on for up to one minute, as workers could not shut it down until the generator that powered it, which was located some 30 to 40 yards away, was turned off.
In 2009, the latest year available from OSHA, Colorado saw 83 work-related deaths. There were 105 deaths on the job in Colorado in 2008, 126 in 2007, 137 in 2006 and 125 and 2005. Of those 576 deaths over the five-year period, 87 were because employees had contact with “objects and equipment,” the category under which Watson’s fatality would fall, according to OSHA.