This What Not To Do Wednesday is a little bit different. I recently came across an article about an OSHA investigation into the death of a mountain climbing guide in Wyoming.
Typically, people think of OSHA and workplace safety as a construction or manufacturing issue and don’t realize that the involvement of OSHA is much further reaching. In the past, OSHA has looked into the death of a marine mammal trainer at Sea World after an orca attacked a trainer as well as ski resorts after a ski director was killed in an avalanche. OSHA also became involved in a recent case of a researcher in Montana who was killed by a grizzly bear. OSHA noted that the researcher did not have anti-bear devices when he left to go into the field and that his employer did not have a check-in/check-out procedure to make sure that employees were properly equipped.
In the case of the climbing guide, OSHA looked into details surrounding a failure of a specific piece of safety equipment that failed as the climbing guide was attempting to retrieve a descending device. OSHA acknowledged that the item was a piece of personally owned gear and that the actual failure was a knot tied by the guide. Exum Mountain Guides agreed to perform formal annual inspections of both company and personal gear as part of their safety changes due to this case. It was acknowledged that the failure of the knot was not Exum’s responsibility and that it isn’t practical for Exum to double check every knot tied by its employees. OSHA also acknowledged that the guide was highly experienced.
The important thing to remember is that if there is a risk of injury to your employees, you need to have a safety plan to minimize or mitigate those risks – even if it is the potential of attacks by bears, whales, avalanches, or personal equipment failure.