Why you need a ‘crime scene’ when investigating accidents

by on August 16, 2011 · 0 Comment POSTED IN: Workplace Safety Network

You’ve no doubt seen crime tape – that yellow caution tape police use to cordon off a crime scene.

Well, you may want to consider a policy that would require people to leave the scene of an accident alone until you and supervisors can investigate. Even if it takes yellow tape.

If one company had followed that advice, it could have headed off a big headache.

Here’s what happened: A forklift-maintenance firm fixed the brakes on one of the company’s two forklifts. As a precaution, the maintenance technician also inspected the parking brake, determined it to be in good condition, and left it alone.

A few days later, one of the company’s workers parked a forklift on an incline, set the parking brake, and walked behind it. The parking brake failed and rolled onto the worker, breaking his leg.

Co-workers removed the forklift and later one worker drove it away and began moving pallets with it.

Soon, the company lost track of which forklift was in the accident. Both forklifts were almost identical, except one had the parking brake on the right and the other on the left. That started a legal battle.

The injured worker sued the forklift-maintenance company, saying he was using the one that maintenance tech had just inspected.

The maintenance firm asked for a dismissal, saying the injured worker was using the other forklift. But it didn’t get a dismissal – the judges said a jury would have to decide which forklift was used based on witness testimony.

Avoid this kind of hassle: Don’t allow workers to remove equipment from the scene of an accident.

Cite: Rodriguez v. Modern Handling Equipment of NJ, No. 07cv7346, S.D.N.Y.

photo credit: Aranami

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