Worker took too many chances, and firm didn’t provide PPE

by on April 12, 2012 · 0 Comment POSTED IN: Workplace Safety Network

“The worker was carrying a plywood sheet right next to the roof’s edge,” said Supervisor Gary Harris. “He lost his balance, and when he tried to regain his footing, stumbled over the edge.”

“He’s lucky he only suffered two broken legs,” said Safety Director Ann Sykes. “His injuries could have been a lot worse.”

“I should have watched him more closely,” said Gary. “After the accident, I checked out the flat roof he was working on. He had ropes, tools, and debris all over the place. He was probably stepping over stuff all day.”

“He said you didn’t provide fall protection,” said Ann.

“I figured he wouldn’t be close to the edge,” said Gary. “I didn’t think we needed it.”

“You don’t necessarily have to have harnesses, but you need either markers six feet in, or guardrails, or a watcher to warn people if they get close to the edge,” said Ann.

“I expect a certain level of skill from my workers,” said Gary. “He wouldn’t have fallen if he’d had common sense. You don’t make a roof an obstacle course. He’s got to accept responsibility for his own actions.”

The injured worker sued, saying that the company’s failure to provide fall protection led to his injuries. The company countered that the worker’s irresponsible behavior was the real reason he fell.

The company was unable to get the case dismissed. That’s because under the state’s labor law, the worker only has to show:

  • The company didn’t comply with state fall-protection laws.
  • That failure led to the worker’s injuries.

That is, under this state’s laws, the legal issue isn’t what the worker did, but what the company did or didn’t do. Fall protection would have arrested the fall, so the company is liable.

Check with your safety director about your state labor laws. Sometimes, workers comp eliminates these kinds of lawsuits. Other times, workers comp doesn’t protect your company.

In either case, insist workers comply with your company’s safety rules about fall protection.

Cite: Dalaba v. City of Schenectady, No. 505354, NY Sup.

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