One worker removes safety guard; another pays the price

by on November 3, 2011 · 0 Comment POSTED IN: Workplace Safety Network

Lack of communication on the shop floor can lead to tragic consequences in the blink of an eye. Supervisors must raise awareness about repair procedures to avoid both injuries and legal trouble.

“I know you’re upset, Luke,” said Holly Ross, safety director. “But you’re going to get workers comp for your injury.”

“I deserve more than workers comp – I lost two fingers in that table saw,” said Luke Henderson. “The company is supposed to provide me with a safe place to work and it obviously failed.”

“I understand, but it was just a terrible accident,” said Holly.

“When someone removes the safety guard from a table saw, what does he think is going to happen?” said Luke. “I didn’t know the safety guard was missing.”

Defective safety device
“Mike said he wasn’t aware anyone was going to use the table saw when he removed the safety guard,” said Holly. “He told me he thought the safety guard was defective and was going to replace it.”

“But see, Mike’s the supervisor,” said Luke. “He should have known someone could get hurt.”

“But my point is, Mike didn’t do anything purposely to hurt you,” said Holly. “You don’t think that he wanted this to happen to you, do you?”

“I don’t know,” said Luke. “I mean, no, I guess not. But I still deserve to be compensated.”

Luke sued the company for damages. Did he win?

No. A judge dismissed the case. He ruled that Luke could not prove Mike intended to hurt him or that his injuries were substantially certain to follow the removal of the safety guard.

While the supervisor in this case was not found to be at fault in the accident, the following steps can help prevent injuries.

  • When inspecting equipment and safety guards be sure to document the inspections by identifying the machine, inspection date, problems noted, and corrective action taken.
  • Alert operators on all shifts to machine problems and the repairs made. Consider tagging the machine with a sign so everyone steers clear until repairs are completed.
  • Train employees to immediately report defective or missing safety devices to a supervisor.

Cite: Rosales v. Bunzzy’s Enterprise, No. 06-11149, E.D. La.

photo credit: John Loo

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