The plaintiff, a truck driver attempted to unload a polyethylene drum of a chemical, weighing approximately 700 pounds, from a pallet placed on the trailer bed by a facility forklift operator. The driver injured his right foot by losing control of a drum he was manually removing from a pallet to place in his trailer. The metal top ring of the drum struck the metatarsal area of his right foot.
The plaintiff lost control of the drum as he pulled it from the pallet that was resting on the trailer floor. The truck driver blamed the forklift operator for moving the pallet as he unloaded the drum from it. The forklift operator lowered the forks the entire way down within the pallet slots, shut the forklift off, and remained in position awaiting the driver to unload the pallet. The expert conducted a site investigation and reconstructed the incident by unloading and handling a drum of the same material. Through trial and error the expert discovered the forklift had no effect on the task of unloading the drum and concluded the truck driver acted in an unsafe manner.
The truck driver, in charge of loading his truck, caused his injury because:
He failed to exercise due care by failing to assess the hazard of a heavy drum falling on his leg and foot.
He failed to wear appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE), specifically steel-toed safety shoes with metatarsal protective guards.
Apparently, there was no written work/safety plan from the truck driver's employer which spelled out the means and methods of how to unload a drum. No job is too small to have written work plans such as a Job Safety Analysis (JSA). The JSA would have recommended steel-toed safety shoes with metatarsal protective guards for tasks with hazards such as a heavy object striking a foot.
He failed to use caution when lowering the drum from the pallet and failed to provide an "escape path" for the drum by positioning his right leg to allow the drum to slide off to either side of his bent knee instead of striking his foot.
His employer failed to provide a mechanical device or investigate the feasibility of a device to eliminate manual handling of drums within the trailer bed.
The task lacked regulation by governmental standards except the OSHA General Duty Clause violation, stipulating the driver failed to protect himself from a "recognized hazard" that he created.
The expert concluded the case was rather simple with the driver blaming the facility for his own actions. The case was settled without a trial.
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.