Monday, April 25, 2016

"forklift driver charged with count of reckless homicide"....

We were asked to begin this blog because of our knowledge of what is actually occurring in our industry. We have found that many will say “we never knew…”, “we were unaware…”, “we did not think this occurred in our industry” when they meet the editors of the Aluminium Plant Safety Blog for the first time. We explain that our goal is not to place a negative spotlight upon our industry but hope that by publicizing these incidents we can prevent recurrence.

On the occasion where we are afforded an audience of factory floor workers we talk about the importance of following your training, not skipping steps, not making assumptions, and no regrets. Here is a recent story from another industry that we believe can be used as training tool in our industry.

A man was indicted one day during the week of April 17, 2016 in the Midwest United States in the early 2016 forklift death of a contract worker at the automotive manufacturing facility.

A grand jury indicted the worker, on one count of reckless homicide for the death of worker who died in early January 2016 after being struck by a forklift driven by the man.

The man was served a summons, is likely to be arraigned sometime before mid May 2016, said the local county prosecutor.

The deceased was crossing a causeway between two buildings at the facility, about five minutes into his shift when the mishap occurred. One other person witnessed part of the accident, said the local county prosecutor, who declined to give details.

"This was a well-lit area with stop signs, controlled much like any crosswalk on a public street," said the local prosecutor.

The forklift was carrying a load of trash that might have obscured the driver’s visibility, authorities said at the time. County Coroner said the causeway did not have surveillance cameras, and there was no video recording of the accident.

The indictment alleges that the drive’s speed, failure to yield and failure to operate with appropriate lookout all contributed to the worker’s death.

The injured worker was taken to a nearby hospital, where he died from a crushed skull shortly after the incident. According to the automotive manufacturing plant, the deceased worker was moved to neighboring community about 40 minutes from the worksite.

The forklift driver worked for a subcontractor, which had a contract to remove waste from the facility. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration cleared the subcontractor and the automotive manufacturing company of any safety violations which might have contributed to the death.

Auto company officials say they have cooperated with investigators, but offered no details, citing "a pending legal matter."

The Aluminium Plant Safety Blog offers our sincere condolences to the deceased worker’s family, friends, and coworkers. This incident has changed/shattered the lives of many who were friends and family of the deceased worker. The use of the word “mishap" in this news article is a poor choice. Why, because a life lost is not a “mishap”. For many this life lost will be defining moment in their lives. We hope overtime they will remember the deceased worker for how he lived, their interactions with him, not how he died.

When we talk to workers about “no regrets” we explain the importance of not making mistakes, watching out for your coworkers, and the sad reality of what could occur if you skip steps, make assumptions, or not following your training. The result could be the worker injuring or killing themselves, or worse injuring or killing a coworker. We have spoken to many workers who failure to either speak up about a worker unsafe behavior, or that failed to following training resulted in the death of a coworker. That pain pales in comparison to the deceased workers family. But, there pain is real and never ever goes away. It a shadow that follows the worker for the rest of their lives. So, no regrets. If you see a worker performing a task unsafely it is your duty to speak up. You can politely mention it to the worker, their supervisor, your boss. You have to.

The aftermath of this incident is unique in many ways. We have heard incidents where the operators of equipment were prosecuted because of operating under the influence of drugs. But, not in this case. The local prosecutor believed that the circumstances warranted a charge of “one count of reckless homicide”. The news media does not state what “degree” of reckless homicide. In the state where the indictment was put forth reckless homicide is defined as anyone who recklessly causes the death of another person or the unlawful termination of another person’s pregnancy. If you are convicted of reckless homicide, you will face a third degree felony. This charge entails at least one year and at most five years in prison and up to $10,000 in fines.

This incident has showed that your actions may be held against you in a court of law. So we emphasize to all workers, follow your training, do not skip steps, and do not make assumptions. We would assume that in this incident that forklift driver failed to follow his training and made the fatal assumption that no pedestrians were in the vicinity.

The Aluminium International Today magazine had an article about another industry’s catastrophe and how the aluminium industry can learn from it. Here it is.

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