Workplace safety expert witness advises on workplace accident that resulted in loss of limb

    Workplace safety expert witness discusses auger injuryA workplace safety expert witness advises on a case involving a plaintiff who lost his leg in a workplace accident. He was employed as a laborer. His job was to push pellets unloaded from a train into an opening in the ground where they were dropped into a rotating auger just below the surface of the ground. The auger was used as a conveyor to transport the pellets from one location to another. The plaintiff did not know that the safety grill covering the opening over the auger had been removed. While pushing the pellets into the opening, the plaintiff’s foot slipped into the auger, resulting in the loss of his leg.

    The plaintiff hired a workplace safety expert witness and filed a negligence action against the owner of the facility, for which he was a subcontractor, and the company that was contracted to maintain the machinery.

    Question(s) For Expert Witness

    • 1. What is the standard of care?
    • 2. Did the safety company violate it?

    Expert Witness Response

    The expert is a professional safety engineer and workplace safety expert witness who specializes in accident prevention and OSHA compliance. He has more than 40 years of experience in the safety field, including teaching courses.

    In the safety industry, these augers are considered one of the most dangerous pieces of machinery. A common cause of many auger accidents is lack of shielding, despite the fact that shields do not significantly affect feeding into the auger.

    In reviewing the agreement between the employer and the safety company, it is my opinion that the safety company assumed a duty to inspect and warn of dangerous conditions, including the grate auger pit and especially due to the higher risks involved in such actions. The duties assumed by the safety company are consistent with the safety consulting industry practices to provide comprehensive services to clients. The standard of care is to ensure the proper guarding of all moving parts of machinery, to prevent serious and fatal accidents. The standard of care in all industrial operations is to secure all guards over all moving parts of machinery by either welding, bolting, or locking the safety guard into position in order to prevent removal of the safety guard by workers who are tempted to remove an unsecured guard that slows down production. It was the responsibility of the safety company to make certain that the safety guards were securely fastened over the three augers. This was absolutely critical to prevent the serious injury suffered by the plaintiff.

    The employer had the right to expect that the safety company would have the education, training, knowledge, competence and expertise to analyze the work procedures of the employees and to both determine the adequacy and safety of the safety guards/grates/grills located above the opening to the auger/screw conveyor, and then make certain that the safety guards/grates/grills were either welded, bolted or locked over the opening.

    The safety company’s safety inspector testified that prior to leaving the site on the day of the accident, he knew that they were unloading/offloading material from the railroad cars into the conveyors all day and that the safety grates were not fastened in place.

    In my expert opinion, plaintiff’s accident and serious injury was entirely foreseeable to the safety company. There is substantial evidence that the safety grates were moved or slid from their intended position for one or two weeks prior to the accident.

    For all of the reasons set forth in this declaration, in my expert opinion that the defendant safety company’s failure to warn that the guards/grates/grills were not welded into position or were missing was a substantial factor in causing the incident and serious injury to the plaintiff.

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