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Recent articles found in the
No.  1 source of actionable information
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Worker’s homemade device became instrument of death

Staffer wasn’t focused on safety during dangerous task

Incident summary
Two men were proud of the makeshift platform they’d constructed to work at heights . . . until one of them tumbled from the platform to his death.

The damage
In order to work at heights, two crew members built a wooden platform that could be affixed to the forks of a forklift.
Two weeks after the platform had been constructed, one of the staffers climbed onto it. His coworker used the forklift to raise his mate to a working height of 30 feet.After a few hours, the man decided to move from the platform onto the building he’d been working on. As he began to reposition himself, the forklift and the platform shifted, which caused the staffer to lose his balance. First, his tool slipped from his hand. Then he tumbled off the makeshift platform. He struck a portion of the building, then plummeted head first to the ground below. When the coworker heard the noise from the fall, he rushed over. He called 9-1-1, and responders arrived within minutes. The victim was taken to the hospital, where he was declared dead due to severe head and upper-body injuries.

Supervisors should not have allowed the men to use the platform and the forklift to elevate themselves. In fact, a label on the forklift warned that platforms should not be attached to it. Further, the victim should’ve been wearing a fall-arrest system when working at a height in excess of six feet. And the crew had the wrong tool for the job. Management should’ve obtained an aerial work platform and directed the crew to use it.


Trouble for supervisor who didn’t notice electrical hazard

Regulator says company should’ve known workers were at risk

“While it seems that you have a pretty strong safety program overall, you appear to have an Achilles’ heel,” said Olga, the compliance officer.
“What’s that?” asked Bob, the supervisor.
“You have a lot of electrical equipment here,” said Olga. “But it seems that you’re somewhat lax in maintaining the plugs for those devices.”
“All our equipment is in top working order,” said Bob. “I do a safety walkthrough every three days and I look at everything.”

Cutting corners
“Apparently you missed something,” said Olga, “because I spotted a plug that didn’t have a grounding prong.”
“Where did you see that?” asked Bob.
“You have a portable fuel pump out back,” said Olga. “The plug is lying right on top of the equipment and the grounding prong is broken off.”
“So you’re saying that the machine wasn’t plugged in?” asked Bob.
“That’s right,” said Olga. “But that’s not the point. Someone could’ve used it and suffered an electrical injury.”
“Hold on a sec,” said Bob. He shuffled through a stack of papers on his desk and pulled one out.

Paper proof
“Here’s my checklist from my safety walkthrough two days ago,” said Bob as he handed her the form. “As you can see, I didn’t note any defective equipment then.
“There’s no way to tell when the plug broke,” he added. “It could’ve just happened this morning for all we know.
“Isn’t it possible that the prong broke after the most recent safety check?” he asked.
“I’d say that the more likely explanation is that the prong was broken for a while and you didn’t notice it,” said Olga.

Missing information
“That’s unfair speculation,” said Bob. “I check every inch of all our equipment several times per week.”
“Walking around with a clipboard and a checklist doesn’t necessarily accomplish much,” said Olga. “You had a hazard sitting there in plain view and you missed it.”
“I take safety seriously,” said Bob. “I’m vigilant in checking out equipment to make sure it’s safe to operate.
“This one thing just happened to slip through the cracks,” he stated. “Besides, the machine wasn’t even plugged in.”
“With reasonable diligence, you could’ve seen the broken prong,” Olga insisted. “I’m citing you for having a broken piece of equipment and exposing workers to electrocution  risks.”

On top of hazards?
“Our safety program is top-notch,” shot back Bob quickly. “We’ll fight this unreasonable citation.”
Result: The company won.
The court ruled that the company showed reasonable vigilance in trying to uncover hazards on a regular basis.

On the ball
Reason: Managers  conducted regular safety walkthroughs.
Plus, there was documented proof that the machine had been examined two days prior to OSHA’s visit.
In addition, there was no evidence that the prong was broken prior to the supervisor’s safety walkthrough.

Based on Secretary of Labor v. Shaw Areva.



Even if you do safety walkthroughs on a daily basis, hazards can still crop up in between. That’s why it’s important to enlist the aid of your crew members. After all, they’re the ones on the front lines of safety. At safety meetings, take a moment to invite frontline workers to speak up about potential hazards. It’s also a good idea to make a positive example of people who do so. At your next meeting, you could single out someone who told you about a hazard and thank him or her for bringing the situation to your attention. Remind the rest of your crew that the person may have saved one of them from a serious injury.





Was applicant too heavy to work safely?

“What are your thoughts on hiring Fred Silverstone?” asked Elana, the HR manager.
“I don’t see how he could do the job,” said Ralph, the supervisor.
“It’s his weight, isn’t it?” asked Elana.
“I don’t have anything against him personally,” said Ralph. “But Fred applied for a safety-sensitive position. His weight is a problem.”
“You think he could get injured because of his size?” asked Elana.
“Yes,” said Ralph. “But I’m afraid that he could hurt someone else too.
“The job involves moving through tight spaces sometimes,” Ralph pointed out. “Plus, people have to stand on moving equipment now and then. His weight would present extra hazards.”

Plan B
“Is he otherwise qualified for the job?” asked Elana.
“Sure,” said Ralph.
“We can’t deny him the job based on his weight,” said Elana. “What if we asked him to lose 10% of his body weight and told him that we’d reconsider hiring him after that? We have other people who could handle the job in the meantime.”
“As far as I know, his obesity is related to his lifestyle rather than a medical condition. He should be able to drop the weight,” said Ralph.
But Fred didn’t lose the weight. The job offer was rescinded. Fred sued, claiming that his obesity was a disability under discrimination laws. The company fought the case, saying that Fred was a safety risk. Did the company win?

No. The company lost.
The court focused on the disability question rather than the safety question. It decided that the staffer provided enough evidence that he wasn’t hired because of his weight for a jury to decide if the firm violated disability laws. In effect, the court said that the company couldn’t provide enough evidence that the worker would’ve been a safety risk. As such, there was adequate doubt in the court’s mind about the company’s motivations, so it allowed the case to proceed.

What it means: Better to focus on the safety risk
Rulings such as this one are potentially devastating for safety-focused managers such as you. Do you hire a person who could be a safety risk or do you take the chance that you won’t run afoul of disability laws? Your best bet is to work with your safety and HR managers to figure out the best way to handle a job applicant who could turn into a safety risk. Chances are that you’ll be better off denying employment to someone who could injure or even kill someone else. Be sure, though, to back up your decision making with a solid paper trail and strong evidence to support your contention that the prospective hire would’ve been dangerous to himself and everyone around him.

Based on BNSF Railway Co. v. Feit.




Why you want your people to stretch
To reduce the chances of repetitive-strain injuries among your crew members, ask them to take breaks to stretch. They should break for at least 10 minutes for every one hour of continuous work, with 30-second mini-breaks every 10 minutes.

How the wrong gear can cause eye injuries
You might be surprised to learn that nearly 60% of the workers who’ve suffered eye injuries weren’t wearing eye protection when they got hurt. And most of the 40% who were wearing safety gear were using the wrong type of eye protection.
Bottom line: Eye injuries are preventable if workers are smart enough to wear the right type of gear.

Confined spaces: Toxins can build up quickly
A word to the wise for your crew members who might go into a dangerous confined space: Toxic gases can build up quickly inside these danger zones. That’s why the atmosphere inside the space must be checked prior to entry and continually monitored throughout the job.
Warning: Just because someone safely entered a confined space several hours ago doesn’t mean that it’s still safe to go into it without taking adequate safety precautions.

 Skin-related problems aren’t part of the job
At your next training session on skin safety, remind your workers why they should take steps to protect their skin. Social handicap. Skin problems can affect their quality of life.
Knowledge. Information is critical for the prevention of skin-related difficulties.
Impediment. Skin disorders can cause physical discomfort, limitation of daily activities, loss of work time and loss of job.
Not necessary. A skin-related problem isn’t a job requirement.




The price of waiting to seek emergency assistance: $70,000
Now may be a good time to remind staffers to seek emergency assistance right away if someone gets hurt or needs help. Otherwise, your company could suffer the same fate as Dukane Precast, Inc., Naperville, IL. OSHA just slapped the company with a proposed penalty of $70,000, partly because workers didn’t contact emergency responders right away when an employee became engulfed inside a sand bin. OSHA said that workers spent an hour attempting to rescue the man before help was summoned. It’s illegal to wait too long to seek emergency assistance. The trapped worker was eventually rescued, and he survived the incident.

 New proof that safety commitment leads to fewer worker injuries
A new study provides more evidence that workers who think management is focused on safety are less likely to suffer injuries. Researchers at the Liberty Mutual Research Institute for Safety, Hopkinton, MA, asked workers if management was committed to safety. For the following 12 weeks, the authors tracked the injury rate among the participating workers. They found that those who believed management was focused on safety were less likely to get hurt.

Worker skipped safety step for job that wouldn’t take long
Double-check that your people understand safety procedures must be followed even for jobs that won’t take long. It’ll help your crew avoid the fate of Clyde T. Kisor of Mark Sand and Gravel Co., Fergus Falls, MN, who was killed at a job site near Buffalo, ND. Kisor jumped into a truck to move it. Because he knew the task wouldn’t take long, he didn’t put on a seat belt. The vehicle was traveling in reverse when it rolled into a ditch. Kisor was ejected from the cab through a window. The worker’s injuries were so severe that he was declared dead at the scene.




Safety locks used for personal lockers
It pays to recognize when workers aren’t taking safety as seriously as they should. A clear indication of trouble is when they’re using safety devices for something other than protection.
Company: Delorio Foods, Inc., Utica, NY.
Business: Food processing.
Agency: OSHA.
Fine: $54,900 (proposed).
Reason for fine: Personal safety locks weren’t being used for their intended purpose.
Note: Inspectors found that locks provided to workers for use when deenergizing equipment were instead being used as personal locks in the men’s locker room. Regulators also claimed that the floor near a dangerous machine was slippery because it was covered in oil.

Worker not told to drink lots of fluids
Of course you want to make sure that workers safeguard themselves from heat-related stress when it’s hot out. Keep in mind, though, that people also suffer injuries when the temperatures aren’t especially high, mostly because they might not be as focused on safety as they should be.
Company: Waste Management of Trenton, NJ.
Business: Garbage collection.
Agency: OSHA.
Fine: $7,000 (proposed).
Reason for fine: The company didn’t provide a hazard-free workplace.
Note: A man working outside in the spring suffered a heat-related death. Regulators alleged that the company didn’t make sure that he drank enough fluids.




Does unusual hazard entitle widow to extra benefits?

Safety insight: Keep in mind that not every job-related hazard is obvious. In some cases, worker injuries don’t show up until years later. That’s why you want to be as comprehensive as possible in identifying all safety risks.
What happened: Pigeons liked to roost in the upper rafters of a work area. Since the doors had to be kept open during the workday, there was little that supervisors could do to get rid of the birds. Therefore staffers had to put up with bird excrement falling into the work area – and sometimes even onto them.
What people did: A worker fell ill with psittacosis, an illness caused by exposure to bird droppings. He died from the condition not long after being diagnosed.
Legal challenge: The worker’s widow sued the company for benefits beyond workers’ comp. She claimed that contracting the disease wasn’t an expected, natural consequence of the man’s regular job duties, so the company was responsible for the worker’s death. The company argued that the widow should get comp only, since the man’s illness was directly related to his job.
Result: The company won. The court ruled that the illness was contracted as a result of the victim’s employment, so the widow wasn’t entitled to damages beyond comp.
The skinny: While courts can sometimes provide injured workers with damages beyond comp, they typically won’t do so if the hazard that led to the injury wasn’t known to the company to begin with.

Citation: Castillo v. Caprock Pipe & Supply, Inc.,  New Mexico Crt. of Appeals, No. 31,499, 5/30/12.




Fatal blunder: Man removes gear for ‘just a moment’

A man working at an elevated location figured that he could speed things up by removing his fall protection – just for a moment. Sadly, it would be the last moment of his life.

The incident
With construction jobs coming in erratically, Mark Allen Whitely was happy to have work – even though it took him far from his family and his Cleveland home. Whitely walked gingerly across the roof of the International Waxes Corp. plant in Titusville, PA. The wax plant was bringing in new processing equipment. Whitely’s team was tasked with removing beams from the roof to clear the way for the equipment. Whitely was moving around a lot, and his harness was getting on his nerves. He figured it would be OK to remove it just long enough to reposition himself in another spot on the roof, so he unfastened it. Tragically, a beam gave way beneath Whitely’s feet while he was in transit, causing him to plummet 30 feet to the pavement.

The response
Stunned coworkers saw Whitely crash to the ground and called 9-1-1. Local police, firefighters and ambulance crews were on the scene in moments. Whitely was transported to the nearest hospital. But there was little that doctors could do for the 43-year-old. Shortly thereafter, he was pronounced dead from multiple blunt force trauma.

The aftermath
Whitely’s body was brought back home to Cleveland. But it was not the type of reunion that his heartbroken family had hoped for. Whitely left behind three sons; two daughters; one granddaughter; his longtime partner, Victoria; and many friends among the ranks of Ironworkers Local 17.

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