Imagine this: Someone finds one of your employees on the ground, conscious but incoherent, in your company’s parking lot. He dies two days later in the hospital. Cause: blunt trauma to his head. Is this death reportable to OSHA?
Here’s what happened: A Home Depot employee in Houston was found lying under a truck in the store’s parking lot. The worker’s job was to gather shopping carts in the lot and help customers load packages into their cars. The worker didn’t have any visible injuries. Other employees said the man was incoherent, lying on the ground and moving, while putting his hands behind his head.
He was taken to the hospital where he died two days later. An autopsy said the cause of death was “blunt head trauma with subdural hematoma and brain contusions.”
OSHA investigated. It issued just one other-than-serious citation for the company’s failure to report the employee’s death to OSHA within eight hours of occurrence.
Home Depot appealed. An administrative law judge upheld the $1,000 OSHA fine. The judge said, “the evidence suggested that the employee fell in the Home Depot parking lot, sustaining the head injuries to which he eventually succumbed.”
Home Depot also appealed that decision. This time, the Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission threw out the citation. Reason: The judge’s finding that the employee fell in the store’s parking lot wasn’t supported by a preponderance of the evidence. The Commission said it was speculation that he fell and hit his head in the parking lot.
OSHA has 60 days to decide if it wants to appeal the Commission’s ruling.
What do you think about the Commission’s ruling? Let us know in the Comments Box below.
Cite: Secretary of Labor v. Home Depot, OSHRC Docket No. 07-0359, 9/16/09. (PDF)