Unsafe Ladder Blamed for Fatal Workplace Accident


Workplace Safety Expert WitnessThis case involves an individual who was severely injured when he fell off a ship ladder at his place of employment. He worked at a biopharmaceutical company and was responsible for turning off a boiler every night which was located on the roof. To get to the roof, he had to climb a ship ladder, unlatch the roof hatch and climb out onto the roof. It has been determined that that the ladder was about 1 foot from the hatch and did not have 3 points of contact per OSHA requirements. The property owner hired a safety consultant prior to the incident to perform a safety inspection and the ladder was not addressed. We require an expert who can discuss the duty of similar firms to identify hazards and the proper protocols to address these hazards.

Question(s) For Expert Witness

  • 1. Please explain your experience inspecting biopharmaceutical facilities for injury risks.
  • 2. Specifically speaking ship ladders, what are the protocols for when a hazard is identified and how is it to be best addressed?
  • 3. What could have been done to prevent an incident like this from happening?

Expert Witness Response E-083439

It looks like a metal barrier was added which would make accessing the roof more difficult. Ladder rungs, steps, and cleats should be uniformly spaced when the ladder is in position for use and this ladder is designed to have the mounting bracket at the walking/working surface level at the roof. The metal barrier in the photos provide, indicates that it is not level and the worker would need to step over it. While unlocking and/or opening the hatch the employee may have needed to use both hands which would have prevented the employee from having the required 3 points of contact. If this is the case a new opening or unlocking device could have been added or the employee could have been trained in procedures to open while still maintaining 3 points of contact. Identifying that the metal barrier made accessing the roof more difficult and created a hazard, and then ensuring replacement with the proper ladder and interim mitigation measures could have helped prevent injuries.

Expert Witness Response E-117306

Employer is required to: 1) Provide a work environment that is reasonably safe from foreseen hazards. Was a hazard assessment performed? I will need to review the employer workplace hazard assessment of the access point (specific area is the ships ladder and access hatch). 2) Employer is required to conduct periodic inspections of the workplace. Had the employer been conducting workplace hazard assessments? If yes, at what frequency? If yes, was the area of the incident specifically identified within the periodic inspections? 3) The employer is responsible to ensure employees are familiar (training & knowledgeable) on the hazards/risk associated with use of this ladder (this location, accessing the roof). Were there signage or warning labels posted? If yes, I will need to review these photos. What training was provided to employees (specifically the injured employee)? I would need to review the training information. What is this employer’s OSHA history? I believe with a additional investigation efforts, the evidence may provide findings that the employer failed to adhere to OSHA requirements and therefore failed to provide a reasonably safe workplace.

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