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Hazard Alerts

Cyclone Cover Accident

Drill Safe


Description of the accident

The injured man was working as a drill rig assistant on a reverse circulation drilling operation. The cyclone sample collection system became blocked and the Driller requested that the injured man unblock the cyclone. The Driller opened the cyclone cover plate hydraulically from the control panel. The injured man inserted his arm into the cyclone to clear the blockage and while his arm was still in the cyclone, the Driller closed the cover plate. The injured man’s forearm was trapped in the opening by the cover plate and he sustained a compound fracture of the left lower arm.

Apparent causes

  1. The Driller failed to ensure that the injured man’s arm was removed from the cyclone before activating the control to close the cover plate.

Additional factors

  1. The cyclone was positioned on the side of the drill rig opposite to the Driller’s control console. The Driller could not therefore see the cyclone and so could not determine for himself if it was safe to close the cover plate.
  2. It is clear that a thorough risk assessment was not done and so an appropriate Safe Work Procedure was not generated for this hazardous procedure.
  3. Operations such as this should require that the machine be shut down and locked –out, this was not done.


  1. A thorough risk assessment must be done to identify all hazards and evaluate all associated risks. Safe work procedures must then be developed for all high risk activities.
  2. A fail-safe, lock-out system must be installed and a procedure for its use developed.
  3. Operational staff must be properly and fully trained and assessed on the lock-out procedure and all Safe Work Procedures.