Safety enhancements stem from workplace fatality

Sept. 26, 2013

by John Lucas

The death of a University of Wisconsin–Madison instrument maker has led to several important safety procedures being reviewed and re-emphasized, according to workplace safety officials.

Kenneth Newman, 63, an employee of the Physical Plant Machine Shop, died on Tuesday, April 16 when a loading dock lift fell on him while he was conducting repairs on the unit at the Art Lofts on North Frances Street.

The university conducted an investigation into the incident, as did the Wisconsin Department of Safety and Professional Services. A report on the incident concluded that an inappropriate method was used to block the lift, and a safety mechanism designed for the situation was not used.

The report also found that the university did not effectively train or document the training of staff on correct procedures. Since the investigation was completed, training and policy changes have been completed.

“Our top priority is ensuring we employ safe practices and procedures and create a culture that strives to continuously improve safety conditions," says Bill Elvey, associate vice chancellor for Facilities Planning & Management.

“In partnership with our employees, we have accomplished much, but clearly, there is more work to be done,” he added.

Following the review, the university is taking several additional safety enhancement measures.

—Physical Plant will complete a written job hazard assessment for each role of its 900 employees to assess their practices and determine necessary prevention measures.

—A safety observation program will be instituted, pairing employees to ensure safe practices are observed on every job and in daily practice. To implement the program, a mechanism will be put in place to enable supervisors and the office of Environment, Health and Safety to help monitor high hazard work tasks.

—Additional steps will be taken to both assure written training instruction is offered and that training is documented.

--Additional education has been undertaken to create a “culture of workplace safety,” including a full safety focused stand-down of all operations in the wake of Newman’s death.

“We will be dedicated to ensuring that we have done everything possible to provide our employees with the tools, equipment, supplies and training to help ensure that they are always working in a safe environment,” he says.

Elvey noted that Physical Plant has taken a number of important steps on employee safety since the July 11, 2011 death of electrician Brad Krause. The deaths were unrelated.

At that time, the university completed a similar review and took the following actions:

—A thorough safety training of all Physical Plant electricians. The training was conducted by an outside, independent safety consultant.

—A full-time member of the FP&M Environment, Health, and Safety Department was assigned to support the operations of Physical Plant on a dedicated basis. 

—The employee assigned to Physical Plant subsequently conducted a comprehensive occupational safety program “gap analysis” and risk assessment to help identify any safety program and training deficiencies that needed to be addressed.