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Providing competent consulting services and litigation support in the fields of industrial, architectural, product and community noise – and machine and facility safety – since 1981.
Contact  at 800-537-7568 or Via Email to esaconsulting@comcast.net

ACCIDENT INVESTIGATION AND LITIGATION

Lately, it seems that every call for assistance with an accident investigation, with an eye toward possible resultant litigation, concerns a fatality or very serious accident.

ESA has been providing investigation of accidents and litigation support for nearly thirty years. In the early eighties, we helped win the highest award for the wrongful death of a minor in a drowning death in the New York City water system. Since that time, we have been involved in over three dozen cases – representing both plaintiffs and defendants in about a 50/50 ratio. 

CASE # 1

Every now an then, we have the opportunity to combine our knowledge of safety with our experience in noise measurement. Such was the case when we were called upon to investigate a fatality in a suburb of Charleston, SC. In this case, a worker at a chemical plant was struck by a backing refuse truck as he was crossing a road. The plaintiff’s estate contended that the backup alarm on the refuse truck was inoperable. 

Subsequent investigation, including measuring the noise levels that existed at the time, revealed that the backup alarm likely inoperative, but also that contributing factors to the accident included noise levels that were high enough to mask the backup alarm, the employee was wearing high-efficiency hearing protectors, and he stepped out into the roadway without looking. The actions of the employer came into question as well, because their placement of the trash container required the truck to back several hundred feet each time a pickup occurred.

CASE # 2

Another fatality occurred at a steel fabricating facility in Pompano Beach, FL, when a coil of steel rod spilled over the takeup capstan and struck the operator on his way to the E-Stop. The issue centered around the design of the machine, the omission of any safeguards against overflow, and the placement of the e-stop that brought the operator into a danger zone. 

CASE # 3

The failure of a safety door on a new vertical lathe (VTL) near Portland, OR caused a fatality when a pump impeller that was being “faced,” broke free from the chucks and was driven into the Lexan window of the door, punching it out and hitting the operator fully in the chest – driving him 25 feet across the plant floor.

Subsequent investigation found that the window was only slightly larger than the open in the steel door framework, and that it had deformed upon impact. This design defect was ultimately admitted by the VTL manufacturer, after trying to answer the questions we submitted to counsel for depositions, and the claim was settled without trial.

CASE # 4

Occasionally, OSHA is forced to take legal action to enforce regulations. Such was the case recently with regard to safeguarding deficiencies in a metal spinning facility in Missouri. ESA was called in to assist in the prosecution of the case, and Bob Andres, CSP, CMfgE, testified in deposition and at trial before an ALJ.

 This particular trial lasted three weeks, since the entire industry was affected and the defense paraded a host of experts. The outcome from the ORC is yet unknown.

 
ESA Accident Pic

Large metal spinning lathes with inadequate point of operation guarding pose

a significant risk of serious injury to operators and others

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