Expertly Speaking


Shopper Be Aware of Store Displays!

Jerry Birnbach, F.I.S.P, Retail Store Safety Consultant ::::

Background: The plaintiff entered the grocery store in order to do her weekly food shopping. As the plaintiff proceeded down the aisle, around the corner’s end, she passed the 8-sided corrugated pallet display of watermelons. The plaintiff decided to leave her cart in place and walk back to the display. The plaintiff stated in her deposition that she called out to her friend to alert her of the melons. The plaintiff picked up a melon from the top of the cardboard bin and started back toward her cart. The plaintiff stated that her left foot hit the pallet, which caused her to fall onto the ground, injuring her leg.

The plaintiff stated that the bin blocked her vision of the pallet, and she was not aware of the corner condition that would cause her to fall. Working from the defense side, it was imperative that the retail store followed and documented the definition established for retailers to maintain a safe and hazard free shopping experience for their customers, invitees and staff.

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The Improper Use of Force by Security Personnel

William Birks, Jr., CPP, CHS-III, Security Safety Consultant ::::

Case Analysis: A TV reporter and his cameraman were assigned to a story that was to air on the late-night news. The two-man team was dispatched in one of the station’s news vans to a well-known gentleman’s club in a major northeast city. While the reporter remained inside the van, the cameraman started shooting video from the parking lot of the club. While the cameraman was filming, one of the club’s bouncers told the cameraman that he could not film on the premises of the gentleman’s club. The cameraman immediately complied with the bouncer’s request and moved himself, as well as his equipment, to the adjacent public sidewalk and continued to film. Shortly thereafter, an unmarked SUV pulled up in the parking lot and the same bouncer exited the vehicle telling the cameraman to stop taking video and to leave the area. The cameraman explained to the bouncer that since he was on a public street he did not have to vacate the area, nor did he have to stop filming.

The cameraman later stated that he turned on the camera’s light in-order to see/identify the bouncer. That action caused the bouncer to smack the video camera to which the cameraman was attached. By that time, the reporter had emerged from the van and both the cameraman and reporter independently admonished the bouncer not to touch the video camera. The cameraman did so in a more colorful fashion which apparently precipitated the bouncer to throw a roundhouse punch which was blocked by the cameraman. The bouncer then paused, began to retreat, and then started to push the cameraman very hard. Ultimately the bouncer took the cameraman to the ground causing several thousand dollars’ worth of damage to the camera and significantly injuring the cameraman.

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Danger Within Reach

Thomas J. Cocchiola, PE, CSP, Mechanical Engineer ::::

Accident: A manufacturer designed, built, and sold a production line that produces decorative precast concrete pavers. The production line includes a conveyor that automatically feeds precast blocks into a hydraulically powered block splitting machine and positions them under a reciprocating splitter blade. In operation, the block splitter cycles repetitively and breaks the precast blocks into pavers, which are then pushed out through a discharge opening onto a downstream conveyor. The design of the production line requires workers to reach through the discharge opening of the block splitter to manually remove the last paver at the end of a production run.

After the production line was placed into service, the owner/operator became concerned about worker safety. The owner/operator recognized workers were able to reach through the block splitter discharge opening and reach the reciprocating blade (i.e., the danger zone). Consequently, a guard was fabricated and installed to reduce the size of the discharge opening. Unfortunately, the added guard did not prevent workers from reaching the danger zone.

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Ambulance Transport Expert

Ambulance vs. Van: Medical Transport of Resident

John R. Yannaccone, PE, Senior Mechanical Engineer ::::

Case Synopsis: An adolescent residential care facility, and their employees, were named as defendants in a case where a teenage resident was being transported to a medical facility for a non-emergent condition. During the transport, the resident opened the vehicle door, jumped from the moving vehicle, and sustained serious injuries. The plaintiff stated that the residential facility should have transported the resident via ambulance rather than a facility van. They further stated that the second staff member should have been seated adjacent to the resident rather than in the passenger seat, implying this would have prevented the occupant from being able to jump from the vehicle.

Expert Analysis: Numerous failures on the part of the facility and staff were alleged by the plaintiff. Plaintiff’s expert claimed the facility should have identified the patient as a suicide risk and transported them in an ambulance. He further opined the van was an unsuitable means of transport due to the lack of ability to contain/restrain the occupant. The defendant was able to show, through testimony of staff members and psychiatric professionals who were acquainted with the resident, that there were no indications the resident intended to hurt themselves, they just did not want to be in the van.

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defective gym equipment

Defective Gym Equipment

Robert J. Nobilini, Ph.D., Biomechanical Consultant ::::

Case Synopsis: While working out at a gym, the plaintiff was attempting to perform an abdominal crunch using an adjustable pulley weight machine when the cable on the machine suddenly broke causing the plaintiff to strike her face on the ground.

Expert Analysis: An examination of the incident equipment revealed that the subject cable traveled through a set of metal brackets and then up and over a pulley. A rubber ball was installed on the end of the cable just above the accessory attachment clip. This ball would interact with the metal brackets that were below the pulley to prevent the end of the cable from traveling back into the machine.

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The “New” Definition of Jaywalking

Robert T. Lynch, PE, Senior Collision Reconstruction Engineer ::::

To be fair, jaywalking is still defined as crossing a roadway without regard for approaching traffic or when it is unlawful to do so; however, the definition of what is and is not lawful is changing. For most jurisdictions, unlawful means that any pedestrian faced with a flashing “Don’t Walk” or flashing orange hand symbol at an intersection must remain on the curb and not start to cross the street, regardless of whether the traffic signal was green for vehicles in their direction of travel or what a pedestrian countdown timer indicated. In Los Angeles fines as high as $250 would be issued to any pedestrian caught crossing when the flashing hand and countdown timer were displayed. Nearly 20,000 of these tickets were issued in the Los Angeles area between 2011 and 2015, equating to over $1 million per year in revenue for the city.

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