Risky Business: Dare to prepare
By Ashleigh Petersen Mary Ann Gormly, CERP
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Risky Business: Dare to prepare

Avoidable accident leads to death

A contractor needed a generator for a job he was starting the next day. The generators he owned were in use on other job sites so he contacted a rental store near the location where he would be working for a few days. The rental store employee who answered the phone told him they would reserve a generator for him.

The contractor arrived the next morning to complete the paperwork. Use of the machine was discussed and the employee provided a demonstration even though the contractor said he knew what he was doing. They also provided the owner’s manual containing all the contractor needed to know about that model of generator. Once the employees were confident the renter knew how to properly transport and use the generator, the contract was signed as well as an addendum to the rental contract indicating that he had received direction and a demonstration on how to use the generator.

The contractor and his crew used the generator for four days. At the end of the work week, the foreman of the contractor’s crew asked if he could take the generator home and use it the next day. He was building his own house and wanted to do some work out on the patio. The contractor decided to let him take the machine home. He had been using the generator all week without incident and his foreman had been a trusted member of his crew for a decade. The contractor knew the man was familiar with generator safety.

The foreman loaded up the generator on Friday afternoon and told his boss he would return it first thing Monday morning.

Monday morning rolled around, and the foreman didn’t show up for work. The contractor called him several times and not getting an answer, decided to drive by his house. The foreman’s truck wasn’t there, and he didn’t come to the door when the contractor knocked. The contractor knew where the man was building his new home and decided to drive by that property on the chance that the foreman was there. As the contractor drove down the street, he saw his foreman’s truck.

The contractor knocked on the door but no one answered. He yelled out for the foreman to no avail. He called 911 and they arrived on the scene. The emergency responders searched for the man and found him in the basement on the floor. They checked for a pulse but the man had passed away. It appeared he had used the generator in a confined space and was overcome by carbon monoxide and died.

The contractor reported the incident to the rental store manager who in turn let their insurance company know. An attorney was retained by the insurance company to guide and protect the investigation due to the fatality. An expert was hired to verify the generator did not malfunction and the machine was quarantined.

The employees did everything they should have. Instruction was given and signed off on, the contract was signed, and the machine was covered in warning labels about using it in a well-ventilated area. A claim was never made and a suit was never filed.

As Benjamin Franklin is credited with saying, “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.”

Dare to prepare.

Mary Ann Gormly, CERP, is a loss analyst for ARA Insurance, Overland Park, Kan. For more information, call 800-821-6580 or visit ARAinsure.com.

Ashleigh Petersen

Ashleigh PetersenAshleigh Petersen

Ashleigh Petersen is the digital communications manager for Rental Management. She writes news and feature articles, plus coordinates the monthly Safety Issue and several sections in the magazine. Ashleigh loves spending time with her husband and young son, baking, gardening and listening to true crime and comedy podcasts.

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