Who should pay for your fatal mistakes?

by luke on October 15, 2011

A ROOFING carpenter has been fined $27,000 for failing to provide a safe workplace for an employee blinded in one eye by a nail gun.


Robin Vlasschaert, trading as RC Vlasschaert Carpentry Services, was fined after pleading guilty in the Rockingham Magistrates Court yesterday.

In June 2009, Mr Vlasschaert was engaged to put up roof timbers for a house at Baldivis in south Perth and employed a carpenter to help him.

The hired carpenter was using a nail gun to attach steel holding straps to roof timbers when the safety instructions for the gun stipulated it should only be used with timber or “materials of similar or lesser density”.

Mr Vlasschaert and the hired carpenter had been using the nail gun to attach steel straps for 12 months without incident, the court heard.

But on the day of the incident, the carpenter had experienced several ricochets where nails failed to go through the steel straps and instead flew into the air.

One ricocheting nail struck the carpenter in the left eye, resulting in the permanent loss of sight in it.

The carpenter was not wearing appropriate safety glasses but a pair of sunglasses which he incorrectly assumed were safety glasses.

The court heard that appropriate glasses were in a toolbox in Mr Vlasschaert’s work vehicle and the hired carpenter was aware they were available for use.

Mr Vlasschaert told the court he was not aware the carpenter was not wearing appropriate eyewear.

Lex McCulloch, the acting commissioner of WorkSafe WA, said on Friday the case should be a reminder to everyone how important it was to ensure appropriate tools are used for every task.

“This case is a shocking example of what can happen when an employer does not make absolutely sure that safe work practices are in place,” he said.

“The nail gun being used was clearly not suitable for the task being performed, and the employer could have purchased a nail gun that was suitable – they were available at the time.

“And although the employer did tell the contractor that he must wear safety glasses, he failed to actually check that the glasses he was wearing were indeed a type that would provide adequate protection against nail ricochet.”

Mr McCulloch said the accident could easily have been avoided and should serve as a reminder that safety should always be the prime consideration on any job.

Article source: http://www.heraldsun.com.au/news/breaking-news/carpenter-fined-over-employees-lost-eye/story-e6frf7jx-1226161436338


Should the employer have to pay?

I always find stories like this interesting. Obviously, the injury is a tragedy; it’s the details that are so interesting. If this were to happen in the US, I imagine the fine would have been MUCH higher than $27,000 considering a few simple OSHA violations, involving NO injuries, can easily reach $50,000!

“This case is a shocking example of what can happen when an employer does not make absolutely sure that safe work practices are in place.”

Considering the fact than the employer TOLD him to wear safety glasses, the whole lawsuit seems pretty ridiculous! An employer doesn’t have direct control over an employee’s actions but they are held responsible for them!

“You told me how to be safe and prevent such injuries…and it looked as though I listened…but I really didn’t. Now I’m hurt and it’s your fault!”

Jobsite risks are inherent. It’s unfortunate, but those risks are part of the job and should be understood as such. I’m not saying that the carpenter shouldn’t receive compensation for his injury…I think that any decent employer should take care of their employees. I am fortunate to have worked for excellent contractors who are honest and fair with their employees. Although no terrible injuries happened, I am sure they would have taken care of them without a lawsuit.

What do you think? Can an employer actually guarantee that everyone will always follow their safety directives? Is such a request even realistic?


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