A workplace injury, no matter how severe is something that is easily preventable by following safety procedures at all times, the proper way. From mopping the floor, to navigating scaffolding on the side of a building, the employer’s job is to train their employees to always work safely, following the proper guidelines. The following situations have been taken from true stories that show that even a split second of not following the rules, led to severe injury and even death for some employees.
A 22-year-old ironworker was three stories up on some scaffolding, it was time for lunch and he started working his way around the building to come down. He unclipped his safety harness temporarily since it was just a short 1.5 foot leap to the next spot. That spot was wet and caused him to slip and fall 33 feet, straight to the ground. He suffered 18 broken bones, a broken pelvis, collapsed lung, and dislocated three fingers. Miraculously he survived, and even walked again, which many people can not say they’ve been so lucky. No matter how heavy, or inconvenient fall protection may be, it is SO important to wear it properly at all times, to avoid falls like this.
Conveyor Belt “Shortcut”
A young woman worked in a paper mill during college, and had been learning the ins and outs of the job and seen a lot of her other coworkers take a shortcut through the mill that required stepping over the conveyor belt that runs through the whole building. If everyone else did it so often, it must be okay, so she decided to take the shortcut. Her foot stepped right into the wrong place, where the conveyor belt collided and she was dragged along the ground to a point where her foot was being pulled through a hole no foot would ever fit through. Screaming for help, a fellow coworker was able to stop the belt and rescue the worker. The maintenance crew had to disassemble the machinery around her foot to free her. The damage was so severe she had her leg amputated from the knee down. This is a prime example of why safety training is not only important, but it’s important to hold your coworkers responsible, and speak up if anything seems unsafe or out of the ordinary. Do not follow the crowd if something seems unsafe.
Tragedy at Disney
In March of 2019, a 58-year-old man passed away while working a job at Disney’s Epcot Center. He was in an elevated cherry picker, attempting to load it into a pickup truck, when he was witnessed tumbling from the basket to the ground. He was found deceased from head trauma by rescue workers. It was found he was NOT wearing any safety equipment. This is a tragic loss, and a terrifying scene for onlookers to witness. A cherry picker is a device that elevates a person in a basket with a mechanism not unlike a forklift that will bring them in a basket to reach higher areas. A safety harness should always be worn and attached to the basket at all times. This small and effective safety measure would have saved his life.
An employee in Wichita, Kansas was fatally crushed by part of a forklift at a drywall company facility. After an OSHA inspection, it was found the hydraulic boom hosit cylinder came loose from its supporting slings and landed on the employee. Serious violations of forklift, machine guarding, and control of hazardous energy standards led to proposed fines of $77,604 to the company via OSHA representatives. “Employers must take proactive steps to ensure that suspended and supported loads are properly secured at all times, and that employees are kept clear of such loads,” said OSHA’s Wichita Area Director Ryan Hodge. “Companies should implement a comprehensive safety and health program that addresses recognition of hazards, safety precautions, and safety training.” View the news release for more information.
Another citation was given by OSHA this year to a contractor working on a New York construction site who failed to ensure an employee was trained, competent, and knew of the weight limits for a mini-crane that ended up overturning and falling four stories on the construction site, gravely injuring two ironworkers. The supervisors were charged with assault in the second degree for their severe negligence in supervising this team that could have cost the lives of many workers. Kay Gee, OSHA’s Manhattan Area Office Director said, “This employer knowingly put workers at risk by failing to ensure that the crane was operated by a competent person, effective training of employees, knowledge of equipment’s limits, and correct operation of equipment are critical to preventing injuries.”
Employers need to ensure their employees make safety their #1 priority, are trained thoroughly, and pass all necessary checks before operating any machinery or taking part in an hazardous workplace activities. In the same way, employees need to hold their employers accountable for safe practices, and following OSHA compliance. Never be afraid to speak up, or refuse to use unsafe equipment. It could save your life.