Imagine this. A machine in your workplace has a sharp blade that chops things. Do you really have to tell employees not to stick their hands near the blade when the machine is running?
A worker at David’s Cookies was assigned one day to pack biscotti into boxes after they passed through a chopping machine. Sometimes small bits of cookie caused the machine to get clogged.
The employee had worked at the cookie production plant for a year, but never near the biscotti machine. She didn’t speak or read English.
The biscotti machine got clogged. While it was still running, the employee reached her hand under the machine’s guard. Her hand came into contact with the blade, and its chopping motion caused her significant injuries.
The worker sued her employer for intentional harm.
David’s Cookies pointed out that the machine had a proper guard and a sign with a pictogram that showed workers they shouldn’t stick their hands into the machine. Workers’ comp should cover this case, the employer said.
The employee argued she’d never been given training on the biscotti machine.
The company won when the court threw out the lawsuit. The judge wrote an employer “could … assume that a rational person is not gonna stick his hand in a machine that’s being operated by electrical power” but would “call somebody or pull the plug or disengage the machinery.”
Cite: Cong Su v. David’s Cookies, Superior Court of NJ, 8/10/09.