“Listen, Tammy,” said George, the supervisor, “we did everything we could to make sure April was adequately trained before she began operating that utility vehicle. I can’t believe you’re now contending that our training was deficient.”
“Whatever training you might have provided to April didn’t work,” said Tammy, the compliance officer, “considering that she was driving too fast and suffered fatal injuries when she slammed the vehicle into a trailer.”
“The fact that the crew member died doesn’t prove that our training was lacking,” said George.
“What training did you provide to April?” asked Tammy.
“April received a full day of instruction on the safe operation of the utility vehicle,” said George. “She also did a test drive with her boss to show she knew how to operate the unit. And we told her to read the owner’s manual.”
“That all sounds good on paper,” said Tammy, “but you failed to provide her with explicit instructions on operating an off-road vehicle on a paved surface. If she’d been aware of that specific danger, she probably would’ve handled the vehicle more carefully and wouldn’t have struck the trailer. I’m citing you.”
“There’s a detailed warning in the owner’s manual about driving the vehicle slowly on paved surfaces,” said George, “and we told April to read the manual. We’ll challenge your citation.”
Did the company win?
Yes. The company won. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) Review Commission tossed out the citation.
The commission said the employer provided solid proof that the victim had been instructed on how to safely operate the utility vehicle, noting that the woman attended a full-day training session on vehicle handling and completed a road-skills test to verify that she knew how to drive the utility vehicle.
And the commission noted that the woman had been told to read the owner’s manual, which included an explicit warning about the dangers posed by driving the vehicle on paved surfaces. In the eyes of the commission, the employer met its training obligations and was in compliance with OSHA regulations.
What it means: Don’t forget to follow up
Of course you provide your crew members with extensive safety training whenever they’re assigned to a new or different job that could be hazardous.
But don’t forget the importance of following up to verify adherence to the training. Mark your calendar to indicate when you should provide refresher training and additional skills testing, if required, in order to ensure that workers are still applying the information they were given in the initial training sessions.
Based on Secretary of Labor v. Sentinel Systems.
(From the Nov. 14, 2022, issue of Safety Alert for Supervisors. To start your no-obligation trial subscription to the publication right now, please click here.)