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DATE: February 24, 2004

INCIDENT TYPE: Serious Injury

LOCATION: District 4

TYPE OF WORK ACTIVITY: Delineation Repair

THE ACCIDENT: On the morning of January 26, 2004, two Maintenance Workers were repairing highway delineation. They were at their second location of the day and were approximately one hour into the job. The ground was very hard. One employee used a sledgehammer to hit a digging spade tip to penetrate the ground and make a pilot hole for the delineation. This was the third post at this location in which he had used this method. Upon his final hit, a piece of the sledgehammer (approximately 1/2" by 1/4") was projected into the employee's right shin area. He limped over to his co-worker, who was about 15 feet away. The co-worker noticed that a great deal of blood was coming from the area. He told the employee to lay down and then placed a sweater over the wound to halt the bleeding. He then notified his supervisor and the employee was taken for medical attention. Because of the delicate nature of the wound (the piece of sledgehammer was lodged between an artery and a muscle) and the potential for infection, the employee had to be taken to another hospital for surgery later that afternoon. He had the piece removed and has been off work since the date of the injury.

CONCLUSIONS: The Code of Safe Operating Practices (COSP) for ROADSIDE MARKER REPAIR OR REPLACEMENT, number six states: "Use proper tool when removing or installing posts." The proper tool is not defined. The method used in this case was a sledgehammer to a hardened metal bit for a pavement breaker. Most sledgehammers are sold with the cautionary statement " . . . never strike with or against another hardened tool. Striking hard surfaces can cause chipping, possibly resulting in bodily injury. Discard immediately if chipping or cracking occurs . . . " Further inspection of the sledgehammer indicated that it was very worn and in need of replacement. Jack hammers or hand augers are an option. Prior to the use of any hand tool the user should inspect it for any cracks, chips, or imperfections.


  • Supervisors should use the Safety Inspection Process (See Chapter 3 of the Caltrans Injury & Illness Prevention Program for specifics) to regularly inspect hand tools, power tools, work areas, etc.
  • Insure that employees are up to date with First Aid training. Fortunately in this case the co-worker knew how to stop the bleeding until medical aid could be rendered.



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