South-Western Legal Studies in Business

Injury Sustained During Company Picnic May Be Subject to OSHA
Description Appeals court held that an OSHA citation to an employer for improperly using a barbecue grill at a company picnic, which caused an injury to an employee, was a violation of the general duty to provide a safe working environment.
Topic Employment Law
Key Words OSHA; Violation; General Duty; Company Picnic
C A S E   S U M M A R Y
Facts A Safeway facility in Denver hosted a picnic for its employees. To make sure there was enough gas to cook the food, Safeway bought a 40-pound gas tank to attach to a grill designed to be used with a 20-pound tank. A label on the tank warned against such use. When the grill did not operate properly cook the food, the manager asked Lewis to try to fix it. When he did, a "ball of fire" erupted, burning his hands severely. OSHA issued a citation for the incident. The matter was appealed.
Decision

Affirmed. An employer has a duty to provide a safe working environment. That extends beyond compliance with specific OSHA regulations. To show a violation of the general duty clause of OSHA, it must be shown that 1) the employer failed to eliminate an obvious and recognized hazard, 2) the hazard was likely to cause harm, and 3) there was a feasible way to abate the hazard. The hazard here was clear as the tank label warned against such improper usage. The fact that this happened at a picnic rather than during regular work does not matter as the employee was asked to work with the grill and tank.

Citation Safeway, Inc. v. Occupational Safety & Health Rev. Comm., 382 F.3d 1189 (10th Cir., 2004)

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