Investigators from Oregon’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration are looking into a possible Oregon industrial accident that claimed the life of a Scappoose woman on Thanksgiving Day.
According to a report in The Oregonian the 43-year-old woman “died Thursday afternoon in an explosion that investigators believe was started by sparks from a metal grinder at an industrial work site.” The fact that, according to the local sheriff’s office, the site of the accident was being leased by a trucking company from a third party may prove to be significant in determining whether this incident meets the legal definition of an Oregon industrial accident.
Third-party liability is often overlooked in reporting on incidents like this, but is important nonetheless. Under Oregon law a company or a property owner’s duty to provide a safe workplace extends to sub-contractors as well as its employees. While we obviously cannot draw any firm conclusions based solely on the short piece in The Oregonian, it will be important for OOSHA investigators and, in turn, the courts to consider where ultimate responsibility for this fatal accident may lie.
Obviously there is still a lot of investigative and legal work which remains to be done in relation to this case. Special attention, however, needs to be paid to one particular section of The Oregonian’s report. “Sheriff’s officials say that an oxygen tank was spewing gas while … (the victim was) working. A metal grinder ignited the flammable gas.” As a Portland Industrial Accidents attorney I hope the investigators will look closely at whether the facility’s gas detectors, gas piping and related equipment met applicable standards and were functioning properly. Based on the newspaper account of the accident all of these issues clearly merit further investigation. The owner of the building as well as the company that was leasing the property will need to answer many potentially difficult questions in the days and weeks to come.