Working in plants and other heavy industry jobs can be very dangerous. The constant handling of chemicals and complex machinery leaves plenty of room for product or human error, which can lead to serious injury, property damage, and even death. For this reason, The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) sets critical standards for worker safety in an industrial environment. One of the most important rules for worker safety is the Process Safety Management (PSM) regulation, which "contains requirements for preventing or minimizing the consequences of catastrophic releases of toxic, reactive, flammable or explosive chemicals…which may result in toxic, fire or explosion hazards."
Chief among the issues addressed by the PSM is maintaining fire protection through the provision of proper exit routes from any work space. Federal regulations define an exit route as "a continuous and unobstructed path of exit from any point within a workplace to a point of safety." Specifically, the regulations require that:
- Proper exit design will allow everyone to leave a fire-endangered area in the shortest possible time;
- Since fire may prevent the use of one exit, at least one alternative form of exit is essential;
- Paths to exits must remain unobstructed;
- The number of exits and the paths to those exits must take into account the elevation of the workspace and the likelihood that materials could become enflamed.
While the laws requiring safe exit from industrial work zones are designed to protect workers from injury, all too often they are not enforced or flagrantly ignored by companies and property owners. The industrial accident attorneys at Arnold & Itkin LLP have, unfortunately, tried many cases in which a worker was injured after a work-site fire because the exit routes were either blocked or insufficient in number. Attorney Kurt Arnold recalls a client who was working on a platform elevated 11 feet in the air when a fire broke out, "The platform only had two ladders to the ground on opposite corners." "The problem was that the platform was split down the middle with equipment that blocked a worker from getting to either side or ladder without having to go up another level," he explains; "so when the fire broke out the client was faced with a decision to either jump off the platform or go back through the fire." The client ultimately had to jump from the platform while on fire, which would have been unnecessary had there been a proper number of exit routes.
Arnold & Itkin's client sustained second and third degree burns over much of his body, as well as impact injuries. A jury found that his employer was negligent in both machinery design and safe exit maintenance. They awarded him a verdict of $2.4 million for his suffering, under the representation of an industrial accident attorney at the firm.
As Attorney Jason Itkin notes, "too often companies put worker safety behind profits. We cannot rely solely on OSHA to police dangerous work practices. When companies fail to provide escape routes and their workers get burned, then we need to hold those companies responsible. Too many workers have been hurt or killed while the companies cover up their misdeeds and continue to profit."
If you have been injured in an accident at work, contact an industrial injury lawyer from Arnold & Itkin LLP today for a free and confidential consultation of your case.