Contaminated drinking water, exploding airbags, ignition switches that shut off while driving….. These are just a few of the more notable and more fatal or potentially fatal public health crises in the past few months. In each of these cases, government or company officials were aware of, and callously disregarded, the risks of bodily harm. While these cases may be extreme, they do highlight the importance and urgency of constant vigilance toward safety whether in, or out of, the workplace. Every one of these crises should serve as a constant reminder to employers to check, double check, and triple check workplace safety protocols. Eliminating workplace accidents may not be possible, but cultivating a culture of safety by instituting the proper safeguards goes a long way toward reducing the frequency and severity of a workplace injury.
You should be asking yourselves the following questions….. Do you have a safety committee? (If that is impractical — and there a few workplaces where that is the case — is there at least a mechanism in place for employees to report safety concerns and, equally important, are those concerns documented?) Are supervisors conducting surprise or spot checks to make sure that safety practices are not falling through the cracks? Is faulty equipment immediately removed from service and not returned until a thorough and exhaustive review has been conducted? Are near misses used as an opportunity to check for gaps in the safety chain?
I am currently defending a roofing company regarding an employee who tragically died after stepping on a cut-out area of the roof which he had previously been warned was unsafe. There is evidence that personal factors played a role in the employee’s death, but the important point here is that prior to the employee starting work that morning, the company owner and his son met with the crew and emphasized the importance of wearing harnesses and other personal protective equipment before ascending the roof. Unfortunately, the advice went unheeded. Still, the fact that the company took every precaution to prevent such an occurrence is critical in helping to reduce their liability for the accident.
With OSHA, workers’ comp., and VSSR expertise, the labor and employment attorneys at MRFL and its partners can assist companies in conducting the kind of workplace safety assessment that can help to reduce the likelihood of workplace accidents.