Two Dozer Runover Deaths in 2 Days, in Nebraska and Michigan

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dozer run-over deaths
Two men on separate jobsites were run over by dozers, on March 1 in Michigan and March 2 in Nebraska.
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On two separate jobsites, one in Nebraska and one in Michigan, two men were run over by a dozer.

In Kearney, Nebraska, the owner of a construction company was run over March 2 by a runaway dozer.

Ron Blessing, 72, owner of Blessing Construction, had been operating the dozer, according to witness statements to the Kearney Police Department. After he was struck, the dozer continued to travel across a field for about a quarter-mile before it stopped in a ditch.

Blessing died at the hospital. Keaney police and the Buffalo County Sheriff’s Office are investigating the incident.

Blessing founded Blessing Construction in 1998. The civil construction firm performs concrete paving, demolition, site preparation, crushing operations and hauling services. It has about 35 employees.

Worker run over

On March 1 in Jackson County, Michigan, a worker on an I-94 construction project was run over by a dozer.

Randall Gerald Elliot, 35, died of his injuries from the accident. He and the dozer operator were contract employees for Dan’s Excavating of Michigan, according to Michigan Live.

Michigan OSHA is investigating.

Elliot was from Stockbridge, Michigan, and was a member of the local 499 union, according to his obituary.

Dan’s Excavating has prior citations by Michigan OSHA, according to OSHA online records:

  • It faces proposed penalties of $7,000, which the company is contesting, for the death of a broom tractor operator who was sweeping a road October 22, 2020, in Macomb, Michigan, when the tractor was rear-ended by a van, according to OSHA online records. The company was issued a traffic-control device violation.
  • It was issued $9,500 in penalties, which were reduced to $7,125, for two serious violations for improper trench sloping and workers not wearing hard hats on Januay 7, 2020.
  • It was issued $12,400 in penalties, which were reduced to $7,800, for two serious violations for personal protective equipment and fall protection on March 29, 2019.
  • It was issued $12,000 in penalties for three serious violations for written permit space program, entry permit and training employees on March 28, 2019.
  • It was issued $5,000 in penalties, reduced to $3,000, for an incident in which a worker was preparing to unload construction materials on December 1, 2017, when a concrete barrier tipped over and broke his leg. The company was cited for not reporting the incident to MIOSHA within 24 hours.

Dozer safety tips

Before you leave a dozer cab for any reason, make sure you have taken precautions to make sure the machine doesn’t move in your absence. These include:

  • Stopping the machine using the service brake.
  • Lowering any attachments to the ground or placing them in a secure position.
  • Shifting controls to neutral/park and locking (if so equipped).
  • Engaging the parking brake.

To fully disengage the machine, continue with:

  • Idling the engine for a short cool-down period to help prevent trash fires.
  • Stopping the engine.
  • Cycling all hydraulic controls to relieve system pressures.
  • Removing the key.
  • Shutting off the master electric switch (if so equipped).
  • When you leave the machine after it’s been properly shut down, always maintain a three-point contact with the steps and hand holds and face the machine. Never jump off a machine. Be careful of slippery conditions on the platform, steps, ladders and hand holds when leaving a machine, and block tracks if you’re on a slope or incline.

For those operating a dozer:

  • Be aware of other equipment operating in the area. Frequently check the location of other equipment.
  • Keep lights and backup horns in operating condition.
  • Park only at designated parking areas and always set brakes.
  • Avoid parking on inclines or haul roads.
  • Keep yourself and other personnel out of pinch points while dozer is operable.
  • Observe parking area for other moving equipment before leaving dozer.
  • Make other operators aware of your presence.