The death of a 28-year-old apprentice electrician at a Klamath Falls mill just before Thanksgiving was recently the subject of a long article in The Oregonian. It explored the victim’s life in detail and also considered the broader workplace safety issues this tragedy raises.
According to the newspaper the man’s death was “Oregon’s 68th workplace fatality of 2017.” State records (see link below) indicate that this number grew to 79 by the end of the year. The paper reports that after answering a call for an electrician late in his shift the man fell “through the lid and into an in-ground vat filled with corrosive liquid heated to 170 degrees, which is used to soften logs before they are processed into plywood.” Doctors say his death would have been instantaneous.
After the incident “the company… installed a railing around the roughly 30-foot long vat,” according to the newspaper, but one must ask why such a basic safety precaution was not in place already. As an apprentice electrician regulations required the man to be supervised in such a dangerous area or to have a supervisory waiver from the state. The paper reports that state records indicate there was no waiver in place. Questions should also be raised about the amount of time that passed before the man’s disappearance at work was reported to the police.
A sheriff’s report from the night of the incident notes that by the time the authorities were called the man “had not been seen for a couple of hours.”
The fact that an apprentice was working unsupervised in such a dangerous area would seem to be a clear violation of Oregon’s Employment Liability Law (ORS 654.305), which states requires “all owners, contractors or subcontractors and other persons having charge of, or responsibility for, any work involving a risk or danger to the employees or the public” to “use every device, care and precaution that is practicable to use for the protection and safety of life and limb.”
As an Oregon lawyer focused on helping victims and their loved ones obtain justice in the wake of tragedies like this I hope the state will proceed aggressively with its investigation. In cases like this it is all too easy for large corporations to assume that they can operate with impunity. The law and our courts are here to ensure that they don’t.
Justia.com: Kilminster v Day Management Corp (323 Or. 618)