HR Management & Compliance

Another Court Case that Hinged on a Training Program

When a painting company got a contract to paint a highway bridge, scaffolds were suspended from the bridge. And because employees would be working 30 feet above the ground, use of fall protection in the form of a personal fall arrest system secured directly to the bridge was required and issued to each scaffold worker.

"Roger" was an experienced painter who had worked for the company for 12 years. Not only was he well trained in the use of the fall arrest system, he had also signed the company’s mission statement, which recognized and required safety procedures and employees’ obligation to follow them.

For some reason, however, Roger was not wearing the required PPE on the day he fell from the scaffold to his death.

When Roger’s executor sued the company for wrongful death, the company argued that if he had been wearing fall protection as required, he would not have died.


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The company went on to point out that it had an exemplary training program designed to protect workers from accidents.

It held mandatory safety sessions every Monday and shorter "toolbox" safety meetings on a daily basis. During those sessions, employees were specifically trained in the safe use of the personal fall arrest system and instructed that they were required to use this PPE.

Not only was the company’s training exemplary, it also had an exemplary safety record—15 years in business and never before an injury caused by a fall.

What the Court Said

The Ohio Court of Appeals denied the wrongful death claim, saying that the employer did all it could to prevent the accident. The court said that an employer cannot be held liable for an employee’s injury when it has taken measures that would have prevented the injury had they been followed. While the court was mindful of the tragic result in this accident, the justices agreed that the employee, not the employer, was at fault.

This employer’s comprehensive safety training program proved to be a powerful defense in this case. Holding regular safety meetings, providing specific training in the hazards employees faced on the job, and providing appropriate PPE (and requiring its use) all served to defeat a charge of wrongful death. But the fact is that an employee still died on the job. And that’s something no employer wants to see.

What can you do to avoid a similar tragedy? Perhaps telling employees Roger’s story will help get the message across—how he worked all those years without an accident, and then one day, for whatever reason, he decided not to bother wearing his PPE. And just look what happened. Remind employees that all it takes is just that one time—that one moment of carelessness.

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Making sure exit routes are OSHA-compliant is essential preparation for emergencies. So is training employees and supervisors in emergency response. That’s one of the many reasons you need BLR’s TrainingToday, a unique training resource for workplaces of all kinds.

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Every course can be tailored with supporting and custom documents. BLR provides supporting documents for courses that include complete slide show notes and the answer key for the included quiz. As the administrator, you have the option of displaying uploaded documents and requiring review before the session begins. This is especially useful for company policies or worksite-specific information. Supporting materials can be added, edited, or removed at any time.

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