Safety insight: It’s never a good idea to not provide safety gear to workers when they ask for it. Failure to furnish equipment looks even worse when the lack of gear causes a debilitating injury.
What happened: A contract worker was told to operate a table saw. The staffer asked the contract supervisor for goggles so he could perform the work safely. The manager said goggles weren’t available.
What people did: The worker was operating the table saw when a piece of wood flew from the device and struck him in the eye. He was severely injured.
Legal challenge: The contract worker sued the host employer, claiming that it had a duty to ensure he was provided with safety goggles so he could perform the job without getting hurt.
The host employer argued that it didn’t control the manner in which the work was done, and that it was the responsibility of the contract supervisor to ensure the man was given the goggles he requested.
Result: The company lost. The court refused to dismiss the lawsuit. The judge said the law required the host employer to furnish safety goggles to the contract employee.
The court pointed out that the responsibility to dispense the safety gear couldn’t be delegated to someone else, even to the contract supervisor. As long as the man was working for the host employer at its job site, the company had to furnish the safety goggles.
The skinny: Judges are usually reluctant to rule in favor of companies that fail to provide safety gear to people, whether or not the company controls the work or is even aware of the potential hazard for which the gear is needed.
Citation: Spirollari v. Breukelen Owners Corp., Supreme Court of New York, No. 2023 Slip Op. 30279, 1/13/23.
(From the March 13, 2023, issue of Safety Alert For Supervisors. To start your no-obligation trial subscription to the publication right now, please click here.)