What are some examples of on-site job safety?

Minneapolis personal injury lawyer Bill Sieben explains how job safety has not gotten much better in the thirty years he has practiced law.

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General job site safety is very interesting, because you see some products, like the defective rim, where the product, the problem is addressed. The product is recalled. The design is changed and people don’t get hurt. Okay? That’s happened with dozens, hundreds, thousands of products by thousands of manufacturers in America.

On-site job safety the problems haven’t changed that much over 30 years, and I’m thinking back to when I was a very young lawyer. One of the first catastrophic injury cases that I handled occurred because an individual that I represented fell and he fell under a hand rail from a second-story tire racking system. He fell, landed on his back, and became a paraplegic. The tire racking system that he was walking on, a catwalk, didn’t have what’s called a mid-rail, something between the guard rail at the top, and the floor of the catwalk, okay? It was about four feet between the top and the bottom. Well, OSHA, building codes, safe manufacturing, and safe job site safety standards say you have to have mid-rail protection so that people or things can’t fall in between. So that was 30, almost 35 years ago. Here we are, 37, 35 years later and I’m still handling cases just like that on dozens of job sites in Minnesota where you have missing guard rails on catwalks, missing mid-rails, missing toe plates, open floor holes.

In the early 1970s OSHA said you have to have guard rails where there’s a three or four foot drop, where you can fall for as little as three or four feet you have to have a guard rail and you have to have a mid-rail, and you have to have a toe plate. The building code has said essentially the same thing going back to the ‘40s and ‘50s, okay? That’s the law. The law has also said that you can’t have open holes in floors that people can fall into, because even though they might be open and people can or should see them, they don’t. They’re working. They’re busy. They’re distracted. They’re trying to do their job and the one thing our government learned after years of study was that if you don’t have guard rails, and if you do have open holes in floors, people are going to fall in them, and when people fall in them it’s not going to be funny. They’re going to get hurt. They’re going to get hurt catastrophically and the people that they work for are going to be harmed by losing a valued employee and the families of the dead and the catastrophically injured are left to put the pieces together. So that’s still a problem in America, even though we have building codes that go back 50, 60 years, even though we have OSHA.

Now, things have gotten better, but one of the cases I’m handling today, 35 years later, is just like the case I handled 35 years ago where there was a missing mid-rail. In this case there was a missing guard rail, no guard at all at the end of a catwalk and a master electrician, who was backing up, backed off of a catwalk and is in a permanent vegetative state today because the guard rail that was supposed to be there wasn’t there.