NEW ORLEANS (AP) - In the past month, three landscape company employees have died in Louisiana, Texas and Arkansas when riding mowers or tractors overturned into water or a stream bed - equaling the total in the previous six years, a federal safety official says.
Eric Harbin, the acting regional administrator for the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, said there had been one such fatal accident in each of the years 2015, 2014, and 2010 in OSHA's Southwest Region, which also includes Oklahoma.
"Less than one a year - but suddenly, in less than a month, we've had three," he said.
"They're really starting to get geared up on the season for landscaping and mowing," and employers and workers need to pay attention to safety precautions for work on slopes and embankments, Harbin said.
He said OSHA is investigating all three accidents: March 21, involving an employee of Clean Scapes LP of Austin, Texas; April 1, involving an employee of Land Design Inc. of Little Rock, Arkansas; and April 5, involving an employee of Bracy's Nursery LLC of Amite, Louisiana.
The Clean Scapes mower overturned and pinned its rider in a ditch with about 2½ feet of water, the Land Design mower slipped 52 feet down an embankment, and the Bracy's worker rolled over into a stream, according to a spreadsheet provided by OSHA.
Officials at Clean Scapes and Bracy's Nursery did not immediately return calls for comment Tuesday. A number for Land Design had been disconnected.
Dorinda Folse, an acting assistant regional administrator, said the Texas and Arkansas workers were thrown into water, but she had not been able to confirm whether there was water in the stream bed where the worker in Amite was pinned.
Harbin said precautions include keeping at least 5 feet away from any incline, if possible, and keeping ride-on mowers at least two mower-lengths away from water.
"It's a great option near water to use a traditional push-mower or a string mower," he said.
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