Worker didn’t tell anyone safety device had failed …

by on October 25, 2011 · 0 Comment POSTED IN: Workplace Safety Network

Based on the facts presented below, how do you think OSHA (or the courts) ruled?

In busy production environments, equipment breaks down. When that happens, ensure that workers know to communicate those failures to you promptly so you can take appropriate action.

“The accident happened because we didn’t fix the assembly table quickly enough,” said Supervisor Pete Graham. “A weld failed on one of six retaining plates. The plate was removed three days before the accident. But it wasn’t replaced.”

“So when workers tilted the table, the retaining plate wasn’t there to hold a 700-pound bucket assembly in place,” said Safety Director Larry Kennedy.

“Exactly, so the bucket tumbled off the table and crushed Mark’s leg,” said Pete.

Missed on inspections
“Why wasn’t the retaining plate replaced immediately?” asked Kennedy.

“A worker removed the retaining plate after it broke, but didn’t tell anyone,” said Pete. “I probably should have noticed that the plate was missing on my inspections, but I didn’t see it.”

“Now Mark’s suing us for more than his workers comp award,” said Larry. “He said not taking that table out of service was more than negligent – it was substantially certain someone would get hurt.”

“None of us supervisors even knew that retaining plate was missing,” said Pete. “Believe me, I’d have taken that table out of service right away.”

Mark sued, saying that a tilting table without a retaining plate was an accident waiting to happen, and he should get more than workers comp. Did he win?

The Decision
No, the company won. The company didn’t know about the hazard until it was too late, so legally, it wasn’t “on notice.” The worker would have to be satisfied with workers comp. But it was a hollow victory, because a good employee was injured needlessly.

Bottom line: Even the most eagle-eyed supervisor can’t spot every equipment failure. Make sure every worker knows he or she is responsible for reporting unsafe conditions to you immediately.

Once you get the report, you can protect workers by:

  • inspecting the equipment
  • modifying it or taking it out of service, and
  • properly assigning the priority for a maintenance work order.

Cite: Seals v. GMC, No. 07-4415, 6th Cir.

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