Bryan J. Smith, P.E., Construction Site Safety / Slip, Trip and Fall Consultant
Case Description/Summary: A retail patron attempted to exit the establishment’s front entryway when a piece of raised duct tape on the flooring caught his toe causing him to trip and fall down the exterior steps of the facility. The plaintiff received serious and permanent injuries during this event.
Expert Analysis: A site survey was conducted approximately two years after the incident to gather evidence on behalf of the plaintiff. The building’s entryway threshold was found to have duct tape, similar to that seen in photos taken by the plaintiff at the time of the incident. (see photo below). It was apparent that the establishment’s owner/operator used the duct tape to secure loose rolled vinyl flooring at the door’s threshold position. The owner/operator would remove and reapply duct tape at that location “as-needed” when it became loose and detached. His actions established notice of the condition and the temporary nature of the duct tape “repair.”
Bryan J. Smith, PE, Construction Site Safety/Slip & Fall/OSHA Consultant ::::
Case Description/Summary: While preparing for an annual festival the plaintiff, a temporary employee of the property owner, was helping a frozen fish delivery person load the delivered products into an exterior walk-in cooler. The plaintiff loaded the product boxes onto a cart with intentions to pull the cart to the cooler’s interior metal ramp so that he didn’t have to carry each box individually. He never looked down at the ramp floor before stepping upon it.
The plaintiff’s walking actions were not those of a normal pedestrian walking upon a flat, level surface. He was on a sloped ramp that was 8.3% sloped from the normal plane (a moderately slight incline from a horizontal plane). Under normal walking conditions, this slope would be considered shallow and far from being excessive – even for pedestrians with walking difficulties. The steeper the slope, the more a pedestrian standing on it will have his weight (see black arrow in the illustration below) act to affect a slide down the ramp. As the weight is applied to the sloped surface, a portion of the weight vector will go “normal” (perpendicular – see yellow arrow) to the ramp’s surface. The remaining force vector of the weight would be applied parallel (see green arrow) to the sloped surface.
Bryan J. Smith, PE, Construction Site Safety/Slip & Fall/OSHA Consultant ::::
Case Description/Summary: A subway station pedestrian (plaintiff) was walking up the stairs from the lower platform to the main station. As she approached the first of two mid-flight landings, she tripped and fell due to unknown reasons. Her fall caused her to break her leg.
Expert Analysis: The plaintiff stated that she had previously used the incident stairs, and that they were unusually dimly lit. The subway operators rarely assigned any transit cars to the platform served by the incident stairs. One day prior to the incident, the station’s maintenance department received a service call for drywall falling from the ceiling over the stairs. This was the only service performed on the stairs for the one-year period preceding the incident, and it evidenced that the stairway was able to reach the deteriorated condition due to either inadequate and/or incompetent maintenance management.
Bryan J. Smith, PE, Construction Site Safety / Slip, Trip & Fall / OSHA Expert ::::
Case Description/Summary: A painting contractor (plaintiff) was walking down an exterior home walkway after dropping off a quote for work requested by the homeowner. It just started raining, so the plaintiff decided to take a different route back to his parked car when he tripped and fell over an unguarded retaining wall. As a consequence of his trip and fall, the plaintiff sustained serious injuries. No guardrail had been present at the incident location, which could have prevented his four-foot fall. It had been dark and raining and the adjacent exterior home lighting was not turned on.
Expert Analysis: The plaintiff stated that he was walking on a flagstone walkway back to his vehicle, which was a different route from the one he used to get onto the incident property. He originally used a concrete sidewalk that bordered the large corner lot property to get to the front door of the house. Since it had started raining heavily just after he got to the porch, he decided to take the alternate flagstone side walkway as a shortcut back to his car. Just when he rounded the side of the house’s porch, he tripped over the edge of an unlighted and unguarded stone retaining wall and fell four feet to a concrete driveway below. The incident caused severe permanent injuries to the plaintiff.
The defendant’s expert argued that the property was constructed prior to the adoption of the building codes which required guardrails at every open walking surface that was 30 inches or more than adjacent lower surfaces, and hence it was “grandfathered” from compliance. He also argued that the flagstone pathway was not a “pathway” or even intended to be used as a walkway – but was in place solely for reason of erosion control of the sloped ground there.
Bryan J. Smith, PE, Engineering Safety / OSHA Consultant ::::
Case Description/Summary: A retail home merchandise establishment improperly erected a display rack, which failed and fell onto a customer. As a consequence of the display rack’s fall, the plaintiff sustained injuries.
Expert Analysis: The plaintiff stated that he was sitting on the floor while looking at a lower elevation of a retail curtain display when, without notice, the display rack became unstable and crashed down onto him. The plaintiff did not know why the display rack became unstable and fell.
Since the time of the incident, the store location involved in the case had been closed, so a site inspection of the incident location was not possible. However another of the store’s locations had a similar display rack. It was inspected as an exemplar to establish potential causes and/or similarities with respect to the merchandise display racks used at both locations. The display racks involved were commonly used in the retail community. They consisted of a steel frame with open steel side channels, and they could accept different types of backboards for use in displaying different types of merchandise. The type involved in this case was a slatwall type backboard, which had been manufactured from medium-density fiberboard (also known simply as MDF), and it had steel channels inserted into its routed slots. As the steel channel inserts did not engage the side steel frames and the MDF was not strong enough to prevent heavy merchandise from breaking the inserts out of the MDF panels which contained them, the manufacturer designed them to be used with side retention brackets. The retention brackets were to be placed at both ends of any insert which was to be loaded with merchandise. In this way, the merchandise weight and the torque that they created through the cantilevered brackets could be directly transmitted and carried by the supporting steel frames at the sides.
LT. Col. Bryan J. Smith, PE, Construction Site Safety / OSHA Expert ::::
Case Description/Summary: A material delivery-man was walking on the construction site to determine where materials needed to be placed for his delivery. As he tried to step through a rough-framed wall, he failed to notice the elevation differential between the room he was leaving and the one he was entering through the wall studs. Either the floors’ elevation difference or a metal concrete pour–stop present at that spot caused him to trip and fall.
Expert Analysis: The plaintiff stated that he was pushing his drywall material cart through the building, which was under construction by the defendant General Contractor (GC). Plaintiff decided to ask the subcontractor, who ordered the material, where they wanted it to be placed. The subcontractor’s men were in a room which was two areas away from where he was located at that point. Instead of pushing his cart through a nearby rough-framed door opening and down the corridor to reach those men, the plaintiff decided to abandon his cart and step through a rough-framed metal stud wall for a “short-cut”. The stud framed wall, which the plaintiff attempted to step through, was a dividing wall between two areas that were at different elevations. The side that he stepped from was eight inches lower than the other side. The dividing point between the two elevations was formed by a piece of metal that had been attached to the face of the stud framing at the side of the higher floor elevation for use as a concrete pour-stop. Plaintiff alleged that he stepped over it and then fell due to broken concrete debris on the elevated floor in the next room. During his fall, he alleged that the metal strip lacerated his leg.