Safety Guards and Products Liability
The below story came to me via Courthouse News Service and just serves as a little reminder. Some industrial accidents can have larger implications for products liability cases. It seems that in most industrial accidents involving failed safety guards, part of the problem is the ease in which safety measures can be bypassed. For example, in industrial presses, which usually require two buttons to be pushes simultaneously, one by each hand, people developed a work around using a stick to they could press on both buttons.
In this case, they removed a key safety guard that ended up in a man getting almost sliced in half. I can't imagine what he is going through. His company gave him no training and just threw him on the machine. In Washington, you're limited to an L&I remedy for injuries at work. The only exception is for intentional bad conduct. For instance, your supervisor is told to punch you and does so. The only case in which this exception has really been tested involved Boeing intentionally exposing its workers to poisons (I believe it was poisons, may have been radiation...its been a while since I've looked over the case, Birklid v. Boeing). So even though this man nearly lost his life, he'll be limited to L&I.
That is, of course, unless there are other people who are negligent. You're probably asking...who? Well the manufacturer of this machine may have known that its safety guards were easily removable. It may have known that, because of the ease with which they could be removed, that things like this happened frequently. If they did nothing about a product they knew to be dangerous, they are responsible for the harms and losses for releasing that product on to the market. When it comes to dangerous machinery, manufacturers aren't allowed to just give lip service to safety. They have to provide ACTUAL safety.
While I'm not usually one to blog about tragedy in new cases, the real reason I wanted to do this post was an original thought I had in regards to these types of situations:
It seems to me, the best way to ensure that manufacturers install safeguards, and that they are used, is to keep the onus somewhere in the middle. If there's no safeguard and their should have been, put it on the manufacturer. However, the manufacturers, when they sell their equipment, could provide an indemnity clause for situations where those safeguards are tampered with. I guarantee you that, if companies were to be held responsible outside of the workers compensation system for injuries sustained by a worker in relation to a failed safety guard, that these types of incidents would drop substantially. Unfortunately, the trick is getting everyone to switch over to these clauses at once, lest people refuse to contract with anyone that has this clause, and take their business to someone without the clause.
And I don't see that happening anytime soon.
L'assez faire economics, you've failed me again.
Man Loses Penis in Industrial Accident: "ORLANDO (CN) - A temporary employee claims the Future Foam Carpet Cushion Co. gave him no training on a peeler machine from which a safety guard had been removed, and its 'surgically sharp steel blade sliced through [his] pelvis, cutting off his penis and testicles while virtually cutting his body in half.'"
(Via Courthouse News Service.)