In April 2015, Cal/OSHA investigators cited Home Depot for multiple violations following a serious work injury at warehouse in Mira Loma, Calif.
The employee's foot was seriously injured during a collision between two pallet jacks in 2014. The home improvement retailer appealed the citations, which California's Court of Appeals affirmed on October 17.
“This is the first California Court of Appeal decision on the issue of protective footwear in warehouses and it sends a strong message on the need to protect workers,” said Cal/OSHA Chief Doug Parker. “Cal/OSHA has investigated a number of serious foot injuries related to forklifts and rider pallet jacks in the warehousing industry. In many cases, injuries could have been avoided with protective footwear.”
Investigators found the warehouse workers were not provided protective footwear such as steel-toed shoes in an area where industrial vehicles were operating. The investigation found that at the warehouse, which functions as a distribution center for retail stores, employees exposed to foot injuries wore sneakers and were not required to wear protective footwear. Investigators also identified violations with the safe operation of industrial trucks.
The 4th District court ruling also affirms an earlier lower Superior Court decision that the citations were correctly applied following an accident investigation.
Home Depot appealed the citations and the Occupational Safety and Health Appeals Board (OSHAB) affirmed both, finding that employees were exposed to foot injures when manually lifting loads and when working in close proximity to industrial trucks. The board ruled that Home Depot’s lifting safety policy and prohibition of open-toed or open-heeled shoes were not adequate to protect workers from the realistic hazard of serious foot injuries.
After the board’s decision, Home Depot filed a writ of mandate with the local superior court asking for relief of the footwear citation, but the court denied the writ. The employer subsequently took the case to the Court of Appeal which ruled on October 17 to uphold OSHAB’s decision and Cal/OSHA’s citations.
Foot injuries from being struck or run over by industrial trucks are the single leading cause of foot amputations and other serious foot injuries among workers in California. In the last five years, Cal/OSHA has opened over 70 investigations with home center employers engaged in retailing home repair and improvement materials.
OSHAB is a three-member judicial body appointed by the Governor and confirmed by the Senate which handles employers’ appeals of citations issued by Cal/OSHA for alleged violation of workplace safety and health regulations. The mission of the appeals board is to fairly, timely and efficiently resolve appeals and to provide clear, consistent guidance to the public, thereby promoting workplace safety and health.