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.
Administrative Law 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.