The plaintiff, an employee (housekeeper) of XYZ Co. tripped over a sack of concrete mix while taking out garbage during the second shift. The injuries were severe enough to prevent the employee from ever returning to her job or any job. Her marriage and personal life were affected negatively as well. The construction company and their sub contractors were remodeling the outside of the building. Someone left the bag of grout in the walkway to hold down a plank that was placed over a trench in the walkway near the loading dock. No designated walkway was established by the contractor. The injured employee, who had walked this way for years, was carrying a load and didn't notice the bag on the ground, even with the adequate overhead lighting.
The plaintiff's safety expert asked for documentation that a written safety program had been established and implemented. According to OSHA emphasis initiatives, construction is a very high hazard industry. The construction company and their sub contractors had no written safety and health program. Failure to establish and maintain a written safety and health program usually results in an unsafe working environment for all parties on a site. Following a written safety and health program should result in conducting "toolbox" safety meetings, inspections, training, engineering controls, safe work practices, a "competent person", multi-employer worksite directives, and employee accountability. "Failing to plan is planning to fail." This same scenario is repeated over and over throughout the construction industry. Safety falls by the wayside to cost and schedule emphasis. Many contractors are lucky and nothing ever happens. Others are misfortunate and the result is often litigation. Developing an excellent "safety culture" can drastically reduce the majority of accidents.
The case was settled in favor of the plaintiff. Had the defendant pursued the fact that the building owner should have established a policy where their employees were unauthorized to enter the construction area, the outcome might have been different.
Jon Pina, MS, CSP, is a Safety, Health, & Environmental Expert. With more than thirty years experience in safety management, loss prevention, construction and demolition, coal, chemical, steel, and hazardous waste abatement, Mr. Pina can observe cases from a well-rounded viewpoint of a Safety and Health professional, construction manager, and "hands on" worker. Among his most notable accomplishments, he has held the position of Construction Manager on many large-scale demolition projects. He also has demonstrated expertise in areas such as the operation of chemical plants and gained field experience as a union journeyman pipe fitter.