28 Jul What Ever Happened to Seamus?
BLOG – LET’S TALK COMP
What Ever Happened to Seamus?
One bricklayer’s tale will lead you to re-consider your investigations of Workers’ Compensation.
It is so frustrating to receive a first report of injury from one of your client companies stating only: the injured employee’s name and “Hurt back.” Although it’s rare, every now and then a complete and detailed injury report will make its way to you.
Consider such a report filed by our friend Seamus McTivnan, a bricklayer. The following is the “gist” of his accident report, originally printed in the newsletter of a publication that is the English equivalent of the Workers’ Compensation Board. While visiting a pub in Ireland, I was treated to a delightful version of this story set to song.
I am writing in response to your request for additional information regarding block
#3 of the accident reporting form, in which my response was “Poor Planning” as the
cause of my accident. You asked for a fuller explanation and I trust the following
details will suffice.
I am a bricklayer by trade. On the day of the accident, I was working alone on the
roof of a new six-story building. On completion of my work some bricks were left
over, which when weighed at a later time, were found to be no less than 240 pounds.
Rather than carry the bricks down by hand, I decided to lower them in the pulley which was attached to the side of the building.
Securing the rope at ground level, I went up to the roof, swung the barrel out, and loaded the bricks onto it. Then I went down and untied the rope, holding it tightly to assure a slow descent. You will note, from the accident report, that my weight is a mere 135 pounds.
Imagine my surprise at being jerked off the ground so suddenly—losing my presence of mind -I forgot to let go of the rope and, needless to say, I proceeded rapidly up the side of the building. In the vicinity of the third floor I met the barrel that was now proceeding downward at an equally impressive speed. This explains the fractured skull, minor abrasions, and the broken collarbone, as listed in Section #3 of the accident reporting form.
Slowed only slightly, I continued my rapid ascent, not stopping until the fingers of my right band were two knuckles deep into the pulley, which I mentioned in paragraph
#2 of this correspondence. Fortunately, by this time I had regained my presence of mind and was able to hold tightly to the rope—in spite of the excruciating pain I was now beginning to feel.
At approximately the same time, however, the barrel of bricks hit the ground and
the bottom fell out of the barrel. Now devoid of the weight of the bricks, the barrel
weighed only 5O pounds. Again, I refer your attention to my weight. As you might imagine, I began a terrifyingly rapid descent down the side of the building. In the vicinity of the third floor, I met the barrel coming back up. This accounts for the two fractured ankles, broken tooth, and severe lacerations of my legs and lower body.
Here, my luck began to change, ever so slightly: The encounter with the barrel had slowed my descent enough to lessen my injuries when I fell onto the pile of bricks—only three vertebrae were cracked. I am sorry to report, however, that as I lay there on the pile of bricks, all crumpled and broken, unable to move, and in excruciating pain—watching the empty barrel six stories above me—I, again, lost my presence of mind and, yes, let go of the rope.. . .
Although Seamus’ case is definitely unique, proper investigation of accidents
does go a long way to mitigate the filed claim and to address safety issues, so that re- occurrence of the claim can be prevented and conditions corrected. There are a few techniques that will assist your risk management department in the accident investigation arena.
Your work site employers must be trained to immediately notify you of any accident.
T h e re are two primary reasons necessitating a quick response: Most states will allow the carrier to controvert a claim if there is any form of substance abuse. Often, this window of opportunity may only be four hours, especially if alcohol is suspected. In addition to checking for substance abuse, quick intervention will assist in the determination of the “compensability” of the claim. Often, an attempt to file a non-occupation-related workers’ compensation claim for a weekend injury can be headed off at the pass, by a solid and serious investigation that is initiated immediately.
The various degrees of accident fact-finding can be classified into four categories:
• Near misses: Conditions are present that could contribute to an unsafe workplace. An employee, being exposed to these conditions, could experience a sequence of events that do not necessarily result in an injury. The conditions require evaluation and correction.
• Minor injuries and minimal disability: The same conditions being present, the employee does experience an injury. These conditions require evaluation and correction to prevent further loss.
• Major injuries/non-life threatening: An unsafe condition is obviously present when an employee falls from a faulty scaffold. This claim requires immediate investigation. The conditions that created the injury must be eliminated from the site before work is allowed to continue.
• Catastrophic life threatening/death: For obvious reasons, investigation should commence immediately for this category, which includes such catastrophes as ditch cave-ins, falls from high elevation, electrocutions, or automobile accidents. Federal and state authorities require notification within 24 hours. The investigation of these claims should be thorough, as work cannot continue at the site until all conditions that led to the injury are eradicated. You can use several methods to gather information and provide documentation on the investigation of accidents. The most obvious course is to interview the injured employee using a basic line of questioning that will help you to understand the nature and reason for the claim:
• What/who caused the claim?
• Were there any witnesses?
• Was/is there any defective equipment?
• Has anybody else had this type of claim?
• Was the injured employee wearing protective equipment?
The statement from the injured employee should be completely detailed and recorded by audio or videotape, with the transcription of the statement signed by the applicant.
All potential witnesses to the accident should be interviewed. Often, they will provide a different perspective.
The account will help to determine “compensability” as well as future prevention of this type of claim. Many of the questions for witnesses are the same as those asked of
the injured party. It would be prudent to also record these statements. In addition, the medical provider, treating the client, should be contacted to find out if the required medical treatment is consistent with the nature of injury, as reported by the claimant on
A complete inspection of the site is mandated in its unchanged state from the time of the accident. If machinery was involved, it should be left alone to further investigate whether there was a malfunction; there could be subrogation potential in your favor. Once you’ve gathered all the necessary information, you’ll be able to work with the carrier’s claim adjusters; this will help minimize the development and bring it to closure. Equally as
important, you should work with your loss-control provider to engineer solutions, so that the conditions leading to the claims are totally removed. Accidents are inevitable but with
proper handling and corrective measures in place, claims frequency and severity will be decreased.
It is hoped that the employer of our friend, Seamus McTivnon, will eventually get him back to work and employ proper safety procedures in case Seamus never quite grasps the consequences of “poor planning.”