This past February, a 51 year-old sanitation worker was crushed to death inside a city refuse truck, while performing tasks in the course of his occupation. Although initially city officials blamed the man, claiming that he violated protocol by climbing into the back of the truck to clear a jammed mechanism, a state agency has just released a statement asserting that the man was simply following policy.
According to The Virginian-Pilot, a report from the Virginia Department of Labor and Industry found that the man’s actions were entirely consistent with city policy when he entered the truck’s hopper to clear debris from a blade that compacted trash. Devastatingly, the hydraulic system engaged, and the man was crushed to death inside the truck. The truck was still running when police and emergency responders were called to the scene.
Stemming from an investigation immediately following the worker’s death, state investigation officials found that an important safety system that was a part of the truck designed to protect drivers while the truck was running, was not working properly on this particular truck. Reports stated that when the door to the hopper is opened, the power to the hydraulic system should shut down – but this didn’t happen, and as a result the man was killed as a result of the safety system’s breakdown.
These safety systems are supposed to be checked daily before trucks begin collecting trash, and the state’s report found that it was not checked the morning of the man’s death. Had the trucks been properly checked, the malfunction would likely have been noted, and the man’s death potentially could have been prevented.
Moreover, the Department of Labor and Industry’s report showed that the worker was not accustomed to driving this particular model of truck, and that “the operator had not reviewed and been trained on the operator’s manual for the vehicle.” Responsibility for properly training employees is in the hands of the city who employs the truck drivers, and when injuries occur as a result of employees being untaught, the city is liable.
According to The Virginian-Pilot, since the man’s death, the state has cited the city for 19 safety violations, including eight violations related to the man’s death. State officials say that the investigation is currently ongoing, and that changes are being made to the management of the city’s sanitation department.
The man, a Navy veteran is survived by his wife, two children, and four grandchildren. Our Chicago wrongful death lawyers understand how devastating it is to lose a loved one to another’s negligence, and appreciate the complexity of Illinois work injury cases. Our attorneys even won a $5.7 million settlement for a 27-year-old roofer in a workplace injury case who was paralyzed when he fell from a roof as a result of the general contractor’s failure to provide appropriate safety devices.
If you or a loved one has suffered as a result of a workplace injury, contact an attorney immediately. Numerous laws are in place to protect worker’s rights.