Worker Dies From Avoidable Safety Failure
December 24, 2018
Every year, workers die in preventable workplace accidents resulting from different safety failures. In a recent and tragic case, a 44-year-old electrician was fatally injured because his employer failed to implement required safety procedures. Although employers are legally obligated to protect the health and safety of employees and guard against known and recognizable workplace hazards, hardworking men and women get injured – and killed – on the job every day.
What are Lockout-Tagout Procedures?
According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), lockout-tagout procedures are a way to ensure that dangerous workplace machinery is completely de-energized during periods of maintenance or service. When machines unexpectedly power on, workers become vulnerable to serious and fatal injuries.
A variety of workplace energy sources can inflict deadly injuries on individuals when they unexpectedly start up. Some examples of energy sources that require effective lockout-tagout procedures include:
- Mechanical, and:
For example, a hydraulic press is a hydraulic energy source. Depending on a machine’s energy source, workers are at risk for different dangerous events (e.g. being electrocuted, crushed, etc.). Some workers face higher risks for exposure to uncontrolled energy sources. OSHA reports that the most at-risk workers are electricians, machine operators, craft workers, and/or general laborers.
An Avoidable Death
The 44-year-old electrician worked at the same automobile wheel manufacturing plant for 10 years before a preventable safety failure took his life. Early one morning, the decedent entered a chrome plating area where there was a hoist operator (a large piece of equipment used to control work site platforms). Hoist operators come equipped with sensors intended to shut the machines down if they come into contact with objects – but in this case, they were non-functional when the hoist hit the man. Instead of de-energizing, the machine continued to move and pinned the electrician. Even though one of his coworkers saw what happened and turned the hoist off right away, it was too late: the 44-year-old was lethally injured. He died while being treated at a local emergency room, the official cause of death listed as blunt force trauma.
The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health – or NIOSH – investigated the incident and found that the hoist operator’s safety sensors had corroded over time, leaving them inoperable. The agency also failed to find documentation indicating that the employer maintained or serviced the safety sensors at any point in time. If the hoist’s safety sensors had been operational when the incident occurred, the man would likely be alive to tell his story today; instead, the employer’s negligence and irresponsibility resulted in a tragic death.
How to Prevent These Incidents
Not only is it critical that an employer values the health and safety of each worker, but also that he or she maintains compliance with federal standards that help prevent disabling and deadly workplace accidents like these from happening. Here are a few examples of effective control measures for controlling hazardous energy sources:
- Implement lockout-tagout (LOTO) practices that safeguard workers against hazardous energy-related injuries and death;
- Train employees on hazardous energy control procedures, and:
- Ensure that all employees working in areas with energy control procedures in place know never to restart or reenergize locked and/or tagged out (e.g. powered down) machinery
To read more of OSHA’s lifesaving energy control tips, you can visit: https://www.osha.gov/SLTC/controlhazardousenergy/index.html. If you have questions or concerns about a work-related injury that you or a loved one sustained, or if you would like to information on how to file a workers’ compensation claim, please contact a representative at our firm directly.
Allentown Workers’ Compensation Lawyers at Galfand Berger, LLP Represent Individuals Injured at Work
If you were injured at work, please contact our Allentown Workers’ Compensation Lawyers at Galfand Berger. With offices located in Philadelphia, Bethlehem, Lancaster, and Reading we serve clients throughout Pennsylvania and New Jersey. To schedule a consultation, call us at 800-222-8792 or complete our online contact form.