On Tuesday, the Department of Industrial Relations published a news release announcing that the Division of Occupational Safety and Health of California (“Cal/OSHA”) cited marine cargo handler SSA Pacific Inc. for willful and serious safety violations after the investigation of a fatal forklift accident in San Diego. According to the news release, an employee was driving a forklift when he collided with a concrete column and suffered fatal injuries after being thrown from the forklift while not wearing a seatbelt. Additionally, the investigation revealed that multiple safety devices on the forklift had been disabled, including the seatbelt warning buzzer and the mast interlock system that should disconnect power from the hydraulic lift when the operator is not in the seat.
As a result of this investigation, Cal/OSHA issued SSA Pacific Inc. six citations that totaled $205,235. Four of these citations were serious violations, issued for the employer’s failure to ensure that forklift operators use seatbelts, failure to properly maintain and inspect forklifts, failure to ensure operators were effectively trained, and improper alterations of forklift safety features. The other two violations cited were for the employer’s failure to establish and maintain an effective heat illness prevention plan as well as failure to ensure workers perform a forklift safety check at the beginning of each shift and report unsafe conditions.
The news release included links to Cal/OSHA’s Pocket Guide for the Construction Industry, which includes specific sections on forklifts and other heavy equipment safety, and Cal/OSHA’s Consultation Services Branch, which provides free and voluntary assistance to employers to improve their safety and health programs.
COUNSEL TO MANAGEMENT:
It is vital to adhere to safety requirements, for the health of both your employees and your company. Not complying with Cal/OSHA requirements, no matter how insignificant they may seem, exposes employees to harm and companies to OSHA citations and penalties which can be used as a basis for serious and willful workers’ compensation claims or as evidence in a third-party civil action brought against the company if third-parties are injured. It is important to remember that protocols and safety programs are only helpful when a company actively holds its employees accountable for sticking to them. If you have questions about OSHA compliance, please contact the experts at The Saqui Law Group.