The follow-up to a tragic fatal accident revealed lessons about not only what a club should have done to prevent it , but also to avoid citations, fine and additional damaging publicity after it occurred.
Earlier this year, a member of the course maintenance staff at an Ohio club suffered fatal injuries when the mower he was operating tipped over into a pond, pinning him underneath it. Everything else pales in comparison to that tragic loss of life, but other consequences the club has since incurred provide some valuable lessons about not only what should have been done to prevent the accident, but also to avoid citations, ﬁnes and additional damaging publicity after it occurred.
After looking into the accident, the Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) cited the club for a list of violations stemming from the incident and its subsequent inspections of the property, with proposed penalties in excess of $25,000.
To begin with, the club did not comply with OSHA’s “basic requirement” to report the death of any employee as a result of a work-related incident within eight hours (proposed penalty: $6,467). And failing to do so, it appears, may have “released the hounds” and prompted on-site inspections that led to the club also being cited for not properly maintaining OSHA logs and summary forms for recordable injuries and illnesses (proposed penalty: $1,294).
As the hounds were snifﬁng around, they also found evidence that the club had not properly developed and implemented a training program for employees exposed to hazardous chemicals “such as, but not limited to, gasoline, weed killer and chlorine,” and that it was not maintaining safety data sheets for those substances. No penalties were proposed for these violations, but the club was given a month to abate them.
Another penalty, of $3,880, was proposed, however, for not developing and implementing a hazardous communication program about the chemicals—and here, too,
the club was given a month to establish one.
After looking into the speciﬁcs behind the fatal accident, OSHA then began to tote up additional penalties for not developing and implementing an action plan for responding to emergencies ($5,174), for not having rules in place for operating a mower on sloped ground or during wet conditions, and for having removed a rollover protection system, after it was damaged, from the mower that was being used ($9,054 for those last two).
During the inspection process, OSHA made the club demonstrate that “feasible and acceptable abatement methods” to correct potential existing hazards would be instituted and enforced going forward, including:
• using mowers with rollover protection systems and operational seat belts;
• mowing areas with a slope of greater than 15 degrees with a walk-behind mower or string trimmer;
• developing and implementing an effective training program for operators that includes, at a minimum, safe operation of a mower and recognition and avoidance of potentially hazardous mowing conditions; and
• following the instructions in the manufacturer’s operator’s manual.
“A workplace free of hazards is a requirement, not an option,” the local OSHA area ofﬁce director said in a TV station’s report on the ﬁnes and citations assessed to the club— three months after the accident, and with pictures shown again of the unsuccessful rescue effort after it occurred.