SACRAMENTO, CALIFORNIA – The failure of a
California-based almond factory to implement safe operating policies and
work guidelines in its work area resulted in serious physical harm to one
of the employees, according to an administrative judge.
Judge Kevin J. Reedy of the California Occupational Safety and Health Appeals
Board ruled that Blue Diamond Growers should be held liable for the accident of
Saeeda Nasim. According to the decision, the employer failed to abide by the safety
rules put forward by the California Code. Judge Reedy also upheld the ruling of
the Division of Occupational Safety and Health, which ordered the company to pay
a fine worth $25,000.
The issue stemmed from
the workplace accident involving Nasim and Carlos Moyo Noe. Court documents
reveal that Moyo, an industrial forklift driver for Blue Diamond, struck Nasim, who
was in front of the vehicle.
Moyo, driving without the load trailing, failed to see Nasim as he was driving with a roaster bin that
obstructed his forward view. The victim suffered serious physical injuries due
to the accident. Moyo admitted that it was only when he saw Nasim underneath
the forklift that he realized what was happening.
For their part, Blue
Diamond stated that the safety orders imposed on them were unconstitutionally
vague. This means that the guidelines, specifically Section 3650 of the California
Code of Regulations, could be interpreted in different ways. With this in mind,
the company pointed out that the ambiguity in the protocols caused confusion in
the implementation of rules in their factory.
The appeals board rejected
this idea. Judge Reedy noted that Section 3650 provided clear guidelines for
the companies to follow. Under subdivision (t)(11) of the said section, the employers
are required to fulfill two things to ensure a safe workspace for its workers. One
of the requirements is to make sure that the industrial trucks are operated in
a safe manner. The second is to require the drivers to travel with the load
trailing when the view of the operator is obstructed. Taking into consideration
the situation in the factory and the subsequent accident, Blue Diamond was
found guilty of violating the guidelines set under Section 3650.
“There is no dispute
between the parties that Moyo was transporting roaster bins on the forklift
without the load trailing,” wrote
Judge Reedy in his decision. He added, “The Division presented evidence
sufficient to establish that Employer was not operating the forklift in a safe
manner in that at the time of the accident, the forklift operator’s forward
view was obstructed by a roaster bin, and that the operator was not traveling
with the load trailing, thus subjecting its employee to the hazard of being
stricken by a moving forklift. Therefore, Employer is in violation of section
3650, subdivision (t)(11).”
The ruling could set a
precedent among California employers, especially those with factories. Based on the
guidelines reiterated in the decision, employers who use forklifts in their workspaces
must establish stricter rules to ensure the safety of both pedestrians and drivers.
Apart from instructing
forklift drivers to carry the loads in the rear instead of the front, which
would prevent getting their views obstructed, employers must require their
workers be aware of pedestrian presence in the area. Adding mirrors could
also assist both operators and the pedestrians in navigating the workspace,
particularly in intersections.
If possible, separate
lanes for forklifts and pedestrians must be implemented in an effort to control
the traffic and strengthen the safety guidelines. While forklift operators must
be trained to exercise more caution in their driving, the pedestrians must be
instructed not to cross in front or behind a vehicle.