How wondering why can lead to injury

by on June 9, 2011 · 0 Comment POSTED IN: Workplace Safety Network

Taking the initiative can be a good thing, but not if it takes workers outside of their job responsibilities and they end up bypassing established safety procedures.

“I’m glad to hear George will be back to work so soon,” Supervisor Terry Conklin said. “But some things have to change around here. I don’t want anyone else on my watch losing a finger.”

“I agree,” said Safety Director Joe Williams. “Something obviously went wrong with the lockout system on the depalleter that day. But was it machine or human error?”

Who was responsible?
“It was human error,” Terry admitted. “George shouldn’t have put his hand in the machine after I cleared the jam.”

“Why did George do that if the depalleter was ready to go?” Joe asked.

“I don’t know,” said Terry. “I guess he was trying to figure out what caused the jam, but I didn’t know he was going to do that. Fixing machines isn’t part of his job. George is supposed to clean up around the equipment and let me know if a machine jams.”

“So you didn’t expect him to have his hand in the machine when you hit the power button,” Joe said. “It sounds like there was a lack of communication going on and also that the depalleter wasn’t locked out properly to begin with.”

“So, what do we do now?” asked Terry.

“The company re-trains all employees and supervisors on lockout procedures and safety guidelines,” Joe said.

“A few new warning signs around the machines wouldn’t hurt either,” Joe added. “We also have to hope that George doesn’t sue.”

Employee files suit
George did sue. A trial court and appeals court eventually ruled in favor of the company, rejecting George’s argument that he wouldn’t have been injured if the company had trained him properly.

The appeals court noted the company did have a safety training program in place and the supervisor had no way of knowing George would try to find out why the machine jammed, because that wasn’t his responsibility.

Bottom line: Make sure employees follow all lockout procedures and leave problem solving to those who are responsible and qualified for it.

Cite: Rijo v. Reading Rock Inc., No. CA2007-09-223, Ohio App.

photo credit: AlishaV

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