By Ed Runyan
Trumbull County Engineer Randy Smith suspended a seasonal worker one week without pay this summer for failing to properly protect two summer workers asked to stand on a forklift while working on a building.
The incident came to light when The Vindicator received a video shot by one of the two summer workers showing them standing on a piece of wood on top of the forks of the lift.
The female recording the video talks throughout the short clip, laughing and talking about how high in the air they are.
“We’re recording. It doesn’t look that far down from the camera, but we’re far down, I promise,” she said.
“I’m not looking. I’m just taping,” the other said as she put masking tape on a building, apparently in preparation for painting. She wasn’t laughing.
The female doing the recording appears to be responding to a comment about it being 10 feet off the ground.
“It’s only 10 feet. That’s higher than a freaking basketball hoop,” she says, panning out to a security light nearby. “We can almost touch this light if we wanted to,” she says, laughing.
A seasonal worker can work up to 1,248 hours per year, the equivalent of about 31 weeks, Smith said Thursday when contacted about the video.
The seasonal worker apparently was sitting in the driver’s seat of the lift while the recording was made. No comments from the seasonal worker can be heard.
Smith said that when the matter was brought to his attention about two months ago, which was about six weeks after it happened, he investigated and talked with the three individuals involved and a fourth person, a member of the union at the engineer’s office.
Smith said he was never made aware that a video had been shot of the incident until he was contacted by The Vindicator.
Smith said he got “four different versions of the story” from the four people he talked to, but he felt the seasonal worker should have found a different way to lift the summer workers or used a platform with a cage on the forklift.
But summer workers, who are college students who receive hours of safety training, are told to tell the safety coordinator if they have any concerns for their safety. Furthermore, summer workers are paid to work, not shoot videos, Smith said.
Smith said he finds it suspicious that the incident came to light so long after it occurred, and that a video was released to the news media 60 days after the incident came to light.
A grievance was filed by the union over the matter, but “it’s not a union matter,” because of the type of workers involved, Smith said.