MIOSHA “Inadequate” Training Citation Vacated by State Circuit Court

Doug Crim recently represented an employer in a MIOSHA citation administrative appeal and, ultimately, an appeal to the Ingham County Circuit Court. The case involved a fatality at a steel products warehouse. A load of steel being transported and loaded onto a flatbed truck became unbalanced and fell on an employee. MIOSHA alleged two “Serious” Citations and two “Other-than-Serious” Citations against the employer. MIOSHA determined that the Other-than-Serious Citations were not a factor in the accident.

The case went to trial before an Agency Hearing Officer. Following trial, the Hearing Officer dismissed the Serious Citation which alleged a violation for having an unbalanced load. The Hearing Officer however, upheld the alleged Serious Citation for “inadequate” employee training. The employer accepted the Other-than-Serious Citations.

The employer appealed the Hearing Officer’s inadequate training violation decision to the Ingham County Circuit Court. After briefing and oral argument, Circuit Court Judge William Collette reversed the Agency Hearing Officer’s inadequate training violation decision, stating:

“He [employer’s supervisor] showed the employees the right way to rig the load, and trained them that there was only one right way, and if the load was not rigged correctly, the only viable action was to set the load down and rig it again. Petitioner also used the generic crane operator manual published by MIOSHA - - and even that doesn’t include information about the wrong way to rig a load. It is difficult, from this limited evidence, to ascertain why the Hearing Officer concluded that [the employee involved in the accident] or any of Petitioner’s employees were unaware of the hazards of improperly rigging a 3000 pound load of steel on an overhead crane. It is nonsensical to require an employer to train employees the wrong way to rig a load. Although the Hearing Officer concluded that [the employee] had no training in the principles of rigging and did not know alternative rigs that might have helped him make the adjustments more safely,’ Petitioner contends that no alternative rigs would have been a safe rig. The training Petitioner gave its employees was that the only safe way to adjust a load was to set it down and re-rig it entirely. [The employee’s] alleged failure to follow that training does not necessarily make the training inadequate.”

Judge Collette found:

“… [The employee] worked without incident for almost two years; it is difficult for this Court to conclude that he was inadequately trained when he worked without incident for so long….

Given this Court’s finding that the Hearing Officer lacked the requisite evidence on the whole record to support the conclusion reached in the Report, it is unnecessary to reach the Petitioner’s [other] arguments….

THEREFORE IT IS ORDERED that the Board’s final decision and order is REVERSED. Petitioner is not in violation of Citation 1, Item 1a.”

(Peerless Steel Saginaw Branch v MIOSHA, Ingham County Circuit, Court Case No. 17-577-AA, January 24, 2018 Circuit Court Opinion and Order)

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