Slippery Surface Sidelines Contractor

slip-and-fall-expert-witness

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. Continue reading “Slippery Surface Sidelines Contractor”

Tanked

night time slip trip fall

Russell Kendzior, Slip, Trip and Fall / Safety Consultant ::::
On a cold December night, Darrell was working as a night watchman at a food manufacturing plant. His job called for him to perform an inspection called “walk the yard” whereby Darrell walks the entire exterior perimeter of the plant once an hour. Flashlight in hand, Darrell started his shift and noticed that the company was having some new construction to one of their outside storage tanks. As Darrell walked along the construction site, he suddenly fell into a hole beneath a dark colored tarp. This wasn’t just any hole but was a six-foot-deep underground chemical waste tank which was opened as part of the new construction. Rather than covering the tank with a steel plate, the construction company simply draped a plastic tarp across it. Having broken his legs, Darrell remained in the tank for the remainder of the night. It wasn’t until the crew arrived the following morning when they discovered Darrell nearly frozen to death.
The waste tank was not barricaded nor were warning signs posted alerting pedestrians of the impending fall hazard. Because the location of the incident was a construction zone, the food company and their contractor should have provided proper warnings as to both the potential and the known hazards (ie: walkway hazards) the construction zone presented. This failure to warn is a direct violation of the Occupational Safety and Health Administrations (OSHA) Code of Federal Regulations. Continue reading “Tanked”

Potholes Are a Nuisance to More Than Just Drivers

potholes-in-roadway

Col. Bryan J. Smith, PE, Construction Site Safety / Slip and Fall / OSHA Consultant ::::
Case Summary: While walking on the parking lot driveway on her way to her apartment, the plaintiff stepped into a pothole which caused her to trip and fall. Her fall resulted in multiple injuries. The plaintiff sued the property owner and the property manager.
Expert Analysis: A site survey was performed to document the site conditions at the location of the incident, which occurred on July 28, 2014. At the time (approximately 10:30 pm), the plaintiff was walking on the apartment complex’s parking lot driveway to her apartment. The plaintiff encountered unstable footing due to the presence of a pothole at a point where the available parking lot lighting no longer illuminated her pathway to the apartment. This damaged/deteriorated driveway was identified six months earlier by the property manager as needing repair/remediation. The damaged/deteriorated pavement presented a non-uniform walking surface which caused the plaintiff to fall and consequently sustain injuries.
A review was made of the borough’s ordinances; the Americans with Disabilities Act Standards, The International Property Maintenance Code, and ASTM 1637-13 Standard Practice for Safe Walking Surfaces. It was found that the incident pothole violated all of the reviewed standards and ordinances, and therefore was a hazardous situation that was the direct cause of the plaintiff’s trip and fall incident. It was also found that the property owner and property manager had sufficient knowledge of the pothole and plenty of time to enact repairs prior to the incident.
Result: The plaintiff accepted a settlement offer.
Col. Bryan J. Smith, PE is a Construction Site Safety / Slip and Fall / OSHA Consultant with DJS Associates and can be reached via email at experts@forensicDJS.com or via phone at 215-659-2010.

Black Ice and the Pedestrian

Lt. Col. Bryan T. Smith, PE, Construction Site Safety / OSHA expert ::::
Case Description/Summary: While walking on the sidewalk in front of a retail establishment on her way to a waiting car, the plaintiff stepped onto a “black ice” patch, which caused her to slip and fall and sustain multiple injuries. Plaintiff sued the property managers and the snow removal contractor.
Expert Analysis: Photos taken and an inspection report showed that the incident sidewalk surface had been covered with ice days after a snowfall event. The two property managers (one for the overall property and a lower tier property manager for landscaping and snow removal) blamed their snow removal contractor for full responsibility.
The snow removal contractor contended that they removed the snow that had fallen during the weather event and that they were not responsible for ice created by thaw/refreeze events. The snow removal contractor had videotaped a defective condition with the roof gutters that caused leaking and dripping onto the sidewalk below the roof overhang about a month prior to the incident and emailed it to the lower tier property manager. The lower tier property manager took no action to investigate the report, or to correct the cause and also failed to inform the overall property manager of the reported dripping problem. Continue reading “Black Ice and the Pedestrian”