Employment Law Blog

News, trends and analysis in employment law and HR

Jun 26, 2015

Train employees to use caution when coming to the aid of coworkers

Safety and Health 

A tragedy at a DuPont facility in Texas highlights the importance of training employees on when and how to come to the aid of coworkers, and the need to create safety procedures for known hazards before they become a life-threatening problem.

A tragedy at a DuPont facility in Texas highlights the importance of training employees on when and how to come to the aid of coworkers, and the need to create safety procedures for known hazards before they become a life-threatening problem. In November 2014, a DuPont employee collapsed when a noxious gas was inadvertently released and the ventilation fans weren’t operating correctly. Two coworkers came to the employee’s aid and also were overcome by the gas. A third coworker, who was the brother of one of the fallen men, then unsuccessfully attempted a rescue. Tragically, all four individuals died in the building from the chemical, which causes respiratory paralysis.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) noted that the ventilation system was out of service, the hazard of the gas was not properly identified or controlled even though the employer was previously cited for this issue, and the employer failed to have processes or training for rescues or emergencies involving this hazard, among other issues. Ultimately, the employer was fined $99,000 (OSHA Citation, May 2015).

Tips: It’s important to be sure you’re taking the time to identify and address hazards in your workplace. This is especially true if OSHA or your state’s occupational safety and health agency has already cited you for those issues. In many cases, a preventative maintenance system or monitoring system will address the danger; those systems should be regularly checked and if they’re not performing properly, operations may have to be suspended. In addition, it’s crucial for employees to be properly trained on when and how to attempt a rescue. Specifically, employees should be told that rescues should only be attempted by individuals who are trained to do so. This goes against the natural reaction that most individuals have when they see someone, especially their coworkers, in need, but the risk to themselves and even the individual needing rescue outweigh the possible benefits. Contact your Vigilant safety professional for more information on addressing hazards and proper training for rescues. Also check out our Legal Guide, “Emergency Action Plans”, and see the extensive resources on confined spaces in the BLR safety database, available for free to Vigilant members through our member website.

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