Delivery person breaks every rule of safe lifting

by on March 17, 2011 · 0 Comment POSTED IN: Workplace Safety Network

This case shows why it’s critical to pay attention to delivery people’s safety, too. They are unfamiliar with your work site, and may unsafely adapt on the fly to get a delivery finished and get back to their route.

“Looks like we’re in for it,” said Safety Director Kathy Gale. “The delivery person is blaming us for hurting his back when he was moving some boxes.”

“I remember when he got hurt,” said Supervisor Al Colbert. “That was Bill Oldman. I’ve seen him a lot over the years. Good guy, but he does things his own way. He got hurt trying to load those boxes into a rolling dumpster.”

“I don’t understand,” said Kathy. “Why was he putting perfectly good plumbing fixtures into a dumpster?”

A dumpster isn’t a dolly
“He wasn’t throwing them away,” said Al. “It’s like this: We purchased some plumbing fixtures from Bill’s company. When they were delivered, I told Bill to unload them and move them to the storage room.”

“Bill said he asked you for a handtruck or some other equipment to move the fixtures,” Kathy said.

“No, he didn’t,” Al said. “We didn’t discuss it at all. He got the bright idea to put the boxes in an empty dumpster, then roll the dumpster to the storage room. While lifting those heavy fixtures over the dumpster walls, he hurt his back.”

Unsafe practices
“So you didn’t give him safety instructions?” asked Kathy.

“No, I told him where to put the stuff, and then went back to my work,” said Al. “I was on the other side of the work site when he got hurt. If I saw what Bill was doing, I would’ve stopped him.”

“Didn’t we have something he could use instead of a rolling dumpster?” asked Kathy.

“Sure,” said Al. “We had several dollies on site, and I have no problem with delivery people using them.”

Written proof
“Bill says we were supposed to provide dollies and we didn’t,” said Kathy.

“We had ’em,” said Al. “But he didn’t ask, and I guess our signals got mixed up. Usually, I will inspect the work, even of delivery people, but this time I got called away. But I don’t think that’s a big deal: The guy was breaking every rule of safe lifting.”

“I understand,” said Kathy. “But it may help to see your inspection records for the day.”

Unfortunately, Al was not able to produce the requested safety inspection documentation.

Did the company win?

Jury verdict
No, the company lost. Bill got $781,000, an amount that was reduced from $1.2 million because of his own negligence.

In cases like these, it boils down to the supervisor’s word against an injured person’s: Did Bill ask for the handtruck or not?

The supervisor’s mistake here: He should have made sure the delivery person had a safe means of moving the fixtures, or watched what the delivery person would do.

Another step: Check that aisleways were clear, so Bill would have a clear shot at the storage room.

Finally, Bill didn’t keep good records. A lack of documentation meant he couldn’t back up his claims about the inspection. Your company no doubt has a policy on how long to keep records.

Cite: Oldenstedt v. Marshall Erdman & Associates Inc., No. 05-1700, Ill App.

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