Two accidents brought about improved safety measures for this Iowa-based company
Good drainage is important for the best crop yields, and Norm Rozendaal, co-owner of Norm Rozendaal Tiling in Monroe, Iowa, spent springs and autumns laying drain tile with a Buckeye 7200 wheel trencher. In addition to its agriculture work, the company installs 35 to 45 residential onsite systems per year for its rural customers.
“The machine had blind spots, making it difficult to see oncoming traffic while driving short distances to the next field,” says his son, Tim. “In 2011, Dad had just finished laying tile in a field and began crossing a road when he T-boned a tractor-trailer as the driver attempted an emergency stop.”
The collision knocked the truck off the road, but didn’t tip it over. The driver sustained injuries from the emergency stop and was taken to the hospital by ambulance. Flight for Life took 65-year-old Rozendaal to the hospital. “It’s the call you never want to get, especially when you’re 40 miles away,” says Tim. “We had put a cab on the trencher to protect the GPS equipment, and Dad had bounced around inside it like a ping pong ball.” Norm made a complete recovery.
To avoid a repeat accident, father and son repaired and traded the trencher, then purchased the latest Model 7200 wheel trencher. Its cab had greater operator comfort and was in the middle of the machine for better visibility. Nevertheless, they mounted four cameras to enhance viewing and safety. “We will never accept compromised vision again,” says Tim.
Familiarity breeding complacency was responsible for a second black moment in the company’s safety history. After 40 years as a drainage contractor, Norm had been on a field in rural Jasper County, Iowa, countless times. “Dad saw no reason to notify Iowa One Call, then wait 48 hours before excavating in a different area,” says Tim.
That day in 2013, the trencher hit and damaged a 4-inch natural gas pipeline feeding the cities of Colfax, Prairie City and Monroe. The resulting gas leak brought three emergency response units. There was no explosion and no one was injured.
“It was an expensive but important lesson,” says Tim. “The accident forced us to demand, from the boss down, that we do not dig without first calling One Call.”