ST PETER —
The Mankato MnDOT district has been penalized $30,000 for serious safety violations involving the death of a worker clearing floodwaters last spring.
Michael Struck, 39, of Cleveland died March 22 when he was swept away by floodwaters as he used a backhoe to clear debris from culverts along Highway 169 near Seven Mile Creek County Park.
An investigation by the state’s Occupational Safety and Health Division found the Minnesota Department of Transportation failed to ensure the backhoe Struck was using was safely positioned and failed to ensure he was wearing a life jacket while performing work next to a flooding river.
The nine-year MnDOT worker was operating a backhoe attached to a Ford tractor parked on the southbound shoulder. While he was using the backhoe to reach down to pull up debris, the tractor slid into the creek and the current flipped it upside down.
Struck’s body was pulled through one of two 8-foot culverts to the east side of the highway, nearer the Minnesota River. His body was recovered the following day in the flooded park area on the east side of the highway.
The OSHA investigation said the backhoe was not set up or used properly — “Such as, but not limited to, outriggers used incorrectly, unstable soil, an uneven ground, resulting in the death of an employee.”
OSHA spokeswoman Jenny O’Brien said MnDOT paid the $30,000 penalty and also submitted documentation about how it has corrected its policies to prevent a similar situation.
In a written statement, MnDOT said it has changed its practices, “To ensure, on a statewide basis, that this doesn’t happen again. MnDOT has expanded and clarified their requirements for use of personal flotation devices. MnDOT is also working on pre-task analyses for site specific hazards,” the statement said.
“We would not be doing justice to MnDOT and to the family of Mike Struck if we did not learn from this accident,” said Justin Stevens, MnDOT District 7 safety administrator.