Inconsistent PPE use leads to exposure, who’s to blame?

by on June 14, 2011 · 0 Comment POSTED IN: Workplace Safety Network

“Remember Bert Rogers – the maintenance man who worked here for 23 years?” asked Gina Wright, power plant safety director.

“Sure do,” said Adam Marks. “I was his supervisor for a while. It’s terrible he retired and got lung cancer. Is he OK?”

“Yes, but Bert is suing the company, saying asbestos exposure caused his lung cancer,” Gina said. “How closely did he work with asbestos?”

Strict rules broken
“Pretty closely – part of his job was sweeping up asbestos insulation that fell from the pipes and boilers,” said Adam. “We have pretty strict rules about wearing protective equipment around asbestos. But I recall I wrote Bert up a few times for not wearing a respirator.”

“Please pull any records related to Bert not following safety rules for me,” said Gina.

“I will,” Adam said. “But we also have records about some OSHA violations for failure to use respirators around asbestos.”

“I forgot about that,” sighed Gina. “Well, let me take a look and see what we’re facing.”

Did the company win the case?

The Decision
Yes, the court ruled in favor of the company. Evidence showed that the employer knew asbestos exposure was harmful to its employees and accordingly provided safety equipment, including respirators and dust masks, to those working around asbestos.

Safety manual required one
However, the record also showed that Bert never wore a respirator despite the fact that the company’s safety manual required employees to wear respirators while working around asbestos or in any dusty area.

In the end, the worker’s own refusal to wear the required PPE contributed to his own workplace illness. The company’s failure was one of enforcement – and while in the past, the company received OSHA fines for that, those failures weren’t enough for the company to lose a blockbuster civil lawsuit for a payout above and beyond workers comp.

Although Adam disciplined Bert for failure to wear a respirator, Bert unfortunately didn’t change his work habits. Here, the supervisor should have followed up the initial disciplinary action with training on safety equipment and then checked in with the employee periodically to make sure he was complying with the respirator rules.

But discipline without consequences is not much good. After a second warning, the supervisor should have talked to human resources about taking more serious action against the worker – for the worker’s own good.

Cite: Loudon v. A.W. Chesterton Co., No. 90183, Ohio App.

photo credit: danielle_blue

Click to View Comments

Leave a Reply


Request a Free Demo

We'd love to show you how this industry-leading training system can help you develop your team. Please fill out this quick form or give us a call at 877-792-2172 to schedule your one-on-one demo with a Rapid Learning Specialist.