Did worker’s actions cause his own fall?

by on November 8, 2011 · 0 Comment POSTED IN: Workplace Safety Network

Steel worker Bob Menendez met with safety director, John Lewis, to discuss a fall that occurred on his watch. A subcontractor’s employee who reported to John fell while putting up a steel-frame structure, and was severely injured.

“Andy is suing us,” said John. “Since you were in charge that day, Bob, I want to talk about how our safety procedures worked.”

“Business as usual,” Bob said.

“You sure?” said John. “Andy told me he had no safety harness or tie line. In fact, he told me you didn’t give him any safety instructions at all.”

Didn’t get safety gear
“Not that day,’ said Bob. “But he’s been doing the same job for us over and over again. He knew the safety equipment was in our truck. He knew how to use it.”

“Then why wasn’t Andy using the equipment?” John asked.

“He probably didn’t want to be bothered,” Bob said. “Besides, I could see Andy wasn’t installing the turnbuckles the right way. The way he did it threw him off balance. This was his own fault.”

Did Andy’s own actions cost him his lawsuit against the company?

The Decision
No. Andy won his case against the company.

A state court found the company was liable for his injuries. The court said it didn’t matter that safety equipment was stored elsewhere on the site because Andy was not provided with the actual equipment.

In addition, the court said that, even assuming the employee’s negligent actions contributed to his fall, the company still violated state safety laws because no fall protection system was in place at the time of the accident.

Supervisor actions
What can a supervisor do to help prevent such an accident?

In cases like these, make sure any employees under your control are following your procedures. The supervisor here needed to insist on installing a tie line and requiring employees to use fall protection.

Some other suggestions:

  1. Review safety procedures with employees on a regular basis and at every new job site. Consider creating a safety checklist for each task and review it at the start of each new project.
  2. Check to see that the procedures are being followed throughout the shift. Make sure employees know their supervisor could be observing them at any time.
  3. Lead by example. Employees will follow your lead, for good or ill, so make sure you send the right message by using fall protection yourself when necessary.

Cite: Vezzuto v. The Parr Organization Inc., No. 19351/05, N.Y. Sup., Nassau Co.

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