The Supreme Court of Ohio has ruled that a manufacturing company in Warren, Ohio violated a safety requirement in failing to give a worker proper safety equipment.
The justices unanimously rejected Glunt Industries’s argument that the electrical breaker that left its employee injured was not “equipment to be worked on” under Ohio law.
“We find that Glunt’s main breaker cabinet was ‘equipment to be worked on’ that was covered by (Ohio Administrative Code),” the court wrote per curiam.
Glunt had a power failure throughout its plant in Warren in April 2006. Thomas Hamrick, an electrician for Glunt, alleged that a supervisor told him to look into the problem. To do so, he went to the main electrical breaker cabinet in the plant. The cabinet housed two breakers, which were covered with separate panels. The right breaker was lower voltage than the one on the left, but there were no high-voltage warning signs.
The cabinet exploded while Mr. Hamrick was standing in front of it. He sustained massive head trauma.
Mr. Hamrick alleged his injuries were caused by Glunt’s violation of a specific safety requirement, when it failed to give him the necessary safety equipment.
The staff hearing officer who heard Mr. Hamrick’s case for the Industrial Commission of Ohio granted his application for more workers’ compensation benefits.
Glunt filed for a writ of mandamus to compel the commission to deny the benefits. The appellate court denied the writ. Glunt took the case to the Supreme Court of Ohio.
On appeal, Glunt argued that it had not violated the requirement because the requirement only applied to “equipment to be worked on.” It contended that Mr. Hamrick caused the explosion by opening that breaker.
The justices held that he was permitted to work on the lower voltage breaker, and that it was located directly beside the one Glunt alleged he was not permitted to be near.
“This alone negates Glunt’s claim that Hamrick’s mere presence at the main breaker cabinet was unauthorized,” the court wrote. “The evidence, moreover, suggests at least two possible causes for the explosion that implicate the cabinet’s lower-voltage right side — the side Hamrick was unquestionably authorized to service.”
Glunt claimed that its failure to provide safety gear was not the cause of Hamrick’s injury because even if it had been provided, Mr. Hamrick would not have used it. However, the justices rejected Glunt’s argument because it did not change that the company had failed to provide things necessary to safely complete the task.
The case is cited State ex rel. Glunt Industries Inc., v. Indus. Comm., case No. 2012-Ohio-2125.