We recently corresponded with Chip Darius, President of Safety Priority Consultants of Cromwell, CT. He is an accident safety and OSHA compliance expert.
What is an accident safety investigator and how long have you been involved in that line of work?
Safety investigation is part of the work a safety professional does. I have worked as a safety professional for 30 years now, starting in 1991. Safety investigations can be proactive or reactive. Proactive investigations analyze the probability and severity of a potential incident, quantify the risk, and recommend hazard control measures. For a proactive example, a property owner could perform periodic traction testing to ensure their walking surfaces are reasonably safe when dry or wet. Reactive investigations take place after an incident has already occurred, and collect information about precisely what happened and under what conditions. For a reactive example, someone could be injured in a slip/trip/fall and claim that a property owner failed to keep the walking surface reasonably safe. I work with clients in general business, construction, utilities, and emergency services. I also teach courses for the OSHA Training Institute Region 1 Education Center and serve on standards-setting committees.
What types of cases are you typically asked to investigate for attorneys regarding their injured clients?
I perform proactive analysis for many different types of hazards that a safety professional typically deals with – falls from height, same-level falls, scaffolds, chemicals, machinery, electrical, forklifts, and material handling, and more. When I’m contacted by an attorney to perform expert witness work, it typically involves reactive investigation of serious injuries or fatalities. Every human on the planet is affected by gravity, and I’m often called upon to investigate slips/trips/falls. I also do many cases involving forklifts, aerial lifts, machinery injuries, ladders, control of hazardous energy, struck by moving equipment, temporary employees, safety training, and roadway work zones.
What is the typical process for a personal injury investigation and how do you go about doing that?
The key to a thorough investigation is to be methodical and consistent. In some cases, the location has changed, like a construction site. In most cases, there is a lot of discovery. I review all the discovery related to safety, such as but not limited to facts, testimony, photos, training records, policies and procedures, contracts/agreements, manufacturer’s instructions, complaint and pleadings, first responder reports, OSHA case files and citations, etc. Where possible and fruitful, I also inspect the site/location along with the objects/equipment involved. I then research and review industry practices, codes, and standards applicable in the jurisdiction and circumstances, including related letters of interpretation, policies, and directives. I apply research and industry practices, codes, and standards to the case, along with my experience, technical training, and education, in order to determine conformance or nonconformance. I then draw the resultant conclusions and formulate my expert opinions.
What are some of the things that you discover that can help a person’s case?
The role of the expert is to impartially analyze the information and apply training and experience to prepare opinions that are justified by the facts. My work involves determining precisely what happened so that responsibilities become clear. When the facts are reviewed in light of laws, regulations, policies, and industry practices, we can determine where the process went off track and who did or did not carry out their duties properly. My analysis helps the judge and jury understand how safety responsibilities were or were not met by various parties in the case.
What is the most important thing that you would like to share with people about personal injury safety investigations?
The more first-hand information about the case, the better. Photos, videos, statements, sketches, and original documents are very valuable in carrying out a thorough investigation. When a company has clear policies and procedures that are communicated, followed, and enforced, that goes a long way toward maintaining safety for all concerned.
Pro Tip: Personal injury cases that involve significant injuries sometimes require the services of an accident safety investigator who can help in a variety of accident cases. Should you have any questions about your Connecticut accident case, please contact us.