Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Fatality: cage washer

I've never seen a walk-in version of these. This is - like just about any other occupational cause - a gruesome way to die. The story isn't new; it was brought up in my law course discussing torts. In short, a worker became trapped in a cage washer (like a giant dishwasher for animal cages) and was fatally scalded. Steam burns are horrid, horrid things. Minnesota's Dept. Labor states: "Because there's a fatality here that caused or contributed to, there's a non-negotiable penalty of $25,000 per penalty." The article cited an average of 72 occupational deaths per year in Minnesota. Details of the inspections were not made public, but each [Minnesota] OSHA citation pointed to a specific safety rule involving equipment safety: ...employees must be able to open an exit route door from the inside at all times without special knowledge or tools ... the guarding device... shall be designed and constructed as to prevent the operator from placing any part of his body in danger zone during the operation cycle. ... each machine shall be equipped so it is possible for the operator to cut off the power without leaving the position at the point of operation. I'm not clear on how that would have mitigated this specific incident. The hospital planed to contest the findings and the fines. How is it possible that fines be "non-negotiable" and yet "contestable"? My understanding has always been that 'contesting' fines generally means "pleading them to a lower amount". .

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