The death of a North Carolina national parks worker has elevated the importance of improving the safety during park maintenance. Now, seemingly benign tasks may undergo examination to ensure that workers receive the protection they deserve.
This past spring, a 63-year-old man was mowing a slopes section of grass along the Blue Ridge Parkway in Asheville, which is maintained by the National Parks Service. Unexpectedly, the riding lawnmower overturned and the man fell 300 feet to his death.
Immediately after the fatal workplace accident, federal officials halted lawn-mowing services in national parks across the nation and have since conducted a thorough investigation into the incident in North Carolina. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has issued fines for failing to protect employees against known hazards. Specifically, it was found that employers need to carefully evaluate the speed at which lawnmowers operate, what kind of equipment is being used and the safety of the terrain being mowed.
Although mowing seems like a relatively simple and safe task, there are steps that must be taken to ensure that it is completed without incident. This accident serves as a reminder to employers in any field: Safety measures should be considered even for seemingly harmless tasks. Inaction may put the safety of workers at risk.
Beyond adhering to mandatory safety measures, employers have often have a duty to provide a financial safety net for those injured on the job. State laws require employers to carry workers' compensation insurance, which provides assistance to injured workers and their families. The park maintenance worker's family may not be excluded from this benefit, as workers' compensation death benefits might be in line.
Source: Asheville Citizen-Times, "Parkway cited for safety violations," Clarke Morrison, Nov. 30, 2012
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