Sure, he knew how to operate it all right…

by on April 10, 2012 · 0 Comment POSTED IN: Workplace Safety Network

“Welcome to the job,” supervisor Al Reuter told machine operator Len Zivic. “They tell me you’re experienced with the kind of equipment we use here. That’s good news.”

“Well, sort of,” Len said. “At my old company I worked on the ‘Z’ series machines for a couple of years.

But I actually haven’t ever operated this new ‘A’ series the manufacturer just came out with.”

“It’s pretty much the same thing,” Al said. “These ‘A’ machines are bigger and faster, but their operating controls are a lot like the Zs that you already know.”

Quick and dirty
“I’ll put you through the paces for a few minutes and then let you get cracking,” Al said.

“Geez, I don’t know,” Len said. “I was trained for a week on the ‘Z’ series. Is a few minutes enough?”

“Like I said, they’re similar,” Al replied. “And there’s lots of work to be done before the end of the week, so we need to get going.”

An accident
Al oriented Len to the new machine for about half an hour, then turned it over to him.

But a couple of hours later, Al heard a cry from the production floor.

When he rushed to the scene, he found Len hugging a torn and bleeding arm that eventually required extensive surgery. Len had gotten his arm entangled in the machine.

OSHA cited the company for failing to ensure that Len was qualified to operate the machine safely.

The company appealed the citation. Did the citation stick?

Yes, the citation did stick. The Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission affirmed it, rejecting the company’s appeal.

The company maintained that because worker Len had operated similar machines made by the same manufacturer, supervisor Al was justified in thinking that Len needed only a brush-up – rather than a full training course – to operate the new machine.

Extra power, extra danger
But the Commission said this was faulty reasoning.

The new machine was considerably more powerful and required additional care and attention from its operator. The fact that its controls were similar to those Len had been trained on didn’t mean he was qualified to operate the new machine safely after just 30 minutes’ training.

Your responsibility
As you know, your duty to keep employees safe when operating dangerous machinery may come under a specific OSHA standard or the General Duty to maintain a safe workplace. Either way, it’s crucially important for Safety Directors to ensure such employees are properly trained.


  • Make sure supervisors don’t turn workers loose until the workers shows a thorough knowledge of the equipment, as defined by OSHA and/or the manufacturer.
  • Remind supervisors to keep the new operator under observation, either by the supervisor or another trusted veteran worker.

Cite: Sec’y of Labor v. Deep South Crane & Rigging, No. 09-0240, OSHRC. Fictionalized for dramatic effect.

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