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Lack of safety oversight blamed for worker's death

A summary of a single fatal workplace accident provides insights into how a lax attitude toward safety could endanger California workers. The incident involved a 33-year-old male warehouse employee riding a pallet lifted by a forklift to access inventory on high steel shelves. According to the report prepared by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, employees at the warehouse routinely put one or both feet on a raised pallet to store or retrieve inventory. When the victim slipped and fell off the pallet, his injuries resulted in his death a few days later.

The evaluation of his death blamed the employer for failing to provide a safe and appropriate method for storing inventory. The employer had not properly trained or certified the forklift operators, and no supervisor had insisted that the pallets and forklifts be used in accordance with manufacturers' directions.

The investigation found that no competent person had been placed in charge of assessing the workplace for hazards or training people to conduct their duties in a safe manner. To prevent future injuries among workers, the investigator recommended that the employer obtain proper equipment that included fall prevention mechanisms for raising workers to elevated positions.

The law demands that employers maintain safe work environments and also allows people to file complaints with regulators about unsafe working conditions. A person suffering from work-related injuries, especially in a potentially negligent workplace, might consult an attorney. An attorney might assist with filing a workers' compensation claim so that the person can receive paid medical care and a percentage of lost wages. Legal representation might overcome an employer's attempt to block access to benefits. In a case that involves violations of safety regulations, an attorney might recommend alerting regulators and filing a personal injury lawsuit instead of pursuing workers' compensation benefits.

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