Archive for September, 2011

Are You Providing Adequate Training?

Thursday, September 15th, 2011

Failure to adequately train employees concerning job safety is a serious omission that can get an employer into a lot of trouble. Following is a lawsuit that makes the point.

A worker, who was not wearing work gloves when he was injured, sued his employer, claiming that the employer did not instruct him that wearing leather gloves was a mandatory safety precaution. This same employee passed a written test before he could work on railroad tracks for the company. He was taught how to set railroad track spikes during the on-the-job training.

At the pre-shift meeting that day, his assignment was discussed. He would be using a 10-pound steel maul head to manually set .8-pound steel spikes into railroad ties. An independent contractor was delegated as foreman in charge of the jobsite, but the employee’s supervisor, from the worker’s company, was ultimately responsible for safety.

The Accident
A steel spike shot out of the tie, striking and cutting the back of the employee’s wrist. No one was there to witness the accident. The employee’s supervisor was in a worksite trailer about 5 miles away. Even though the company had provided PPE to all employees, including leather work gloves, the employee was not wearing them when he was injured. The injury resulted in major surgery to repair tendons and nerves.

The company conducted an accident investigation and concluded that the injury was solely the employee’s fault because he had not followed the company’s safety rules and procedures, which contained expressed and repeated instruction that employees were responsible for complying with all safety rules and instructions, including wearing assigned PPE and following specific rules for using spike maul and setting and driving spikes.

The employee charged that the company was at fault because it did not make him aware that wearing the gloves was mandatory. And while he noted that 6 months earlier, his supervisor initiated a practice of training new employees by having them watch a series of safety videos, he had been working for the company for over 2 years, and therefore did not view these same videos until after his accident.

Keep in mind that the employee did admit to receiving a copy of the company’s safety rules and procedures, he argued that the rules did not address setting spikes or the use of gloves and the company did not have written rules regarding the use of gloves.

Eventually the employee filed suit against the company, alleging it had violated the Federal Employers’ Liability Act (law applicable to railroads). He sought compensatory damages for his injuries, past and present medical care, past and future mental and emotional distress, and post and future lost earnings.

So how do you think the court ruled?
The railroad company requested the court to dismiss the claims, which was denied saying that a jury should decide the matter and that there was sufficient evidence from which the jury could reasonably conclude that the employer was negligent for failing to define and enforce its own safety rules and for failing to properly train employees.

What Can You Do To Prevent Negligence Claims

First, make sure all employees are adequately trained. This includes all new hires and more importantly, existing employees who may be doing a job for the first time. Just because you have an employee working for you for years doesn’t negate the fact that they may not have performed a certain task and as such must be properly trained on the requirements of the task.

Second, provide PPE and require its use. It’s the responsibility of the employer to instruct employees about when and how to use PPE. Make sure they know they must wear it. And make sure you monitor that they are actually using the required PPE. This means that the site supervisor or foreman needs to be available to check in on the job and the employees.

Third, institute a company-wide Disciplinary Program and enforce it. The program should define the company’s policy of enforcing safety practices and the penalties that will be in place if an employee chooses to disregard them.

Finally, continuous learning through on-going safety training enforces a culture of safety and fosters good behaviors. Safety Training Resources in St. Charles, Missouri  is committed to helping companies institute a strong safety culture and can help bring all levels within an organization to work on a  common goal – Worker Safety and Health. Call us today to schedule an on-site safety consultation. Have you included safety training in your budget for 2012?