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2000-07-20
Twin falls, ID. 3 year old killed at Home Depot

On Sunday afternoon, May 29, 2000, around 4:30 pm, 3 year old Janessa Horner was inside the Twin Falls, Idaho Home Depot when she was hit with either countertops or broken pieces of countertops. A Home Depot crew was moving the countertops from an overhead bin, and had barricaded the aisle during the operation. The forklift driver and an employee spotter said the load seemed steady, but it shifted as the forks lowered, and even though Janessa and her parents were outside of the barricaded aisle, pieces of the countertops split and flew like splinters across the room. One of the fragments hit Janessa, knocking her to the concrete floor, causing massive head injuries. The child was flown to a regional hospital in Boise, where she died the next day. County prosecutors decided several days later not to file criminal charges against the forklift operator. A drug and alcohol test showed the employee was not under the influence of either substance. According to the Times-News, stores like Home Depot close off aisles when a forklift is in operation, and use a "spotter" to help watch the aisle. A Home Depot official claimed that "safety rules were being followed" in this case, "there was a spotter and the aisle was closed off, but unfortunately that didn't prevent this horrible tragedy." Home Depot added: "Obviously since this is under investigation, we can't talk about everything, but there are safety standards and procedures that we do follow." Home Depot issued a press release after the incident, saying that employees go through training and instruction in safe work practices, including a hands-on training program before operating a forklift. But how good is that training? An OSHA investigation is underway in Janessa's death. The two employees involved in the case were put on administrative leave.

What you can do: Stores like Home Depot and Costco, which try to create a "warehouse-like" atmosphere, may say that their employees are properly trained, and that they try to have stocking and forklift moving mostly done after hourse, but the reality is these stores have forklifts in the aisles all during business hours. To what degree does this make warehouse stores more dangerous than stores without forklists? We have recorded any number of such horrific accidents at big box stores, everything from slip and fall cases, to falling merchandise injuries. People have been killed or seriously disabled in these stores. It may be that patrons of such stores should be wearing hardhats, since they are essentially walking into the middle of an on-going stocking situation, in a "warehouse" with items stacked high above their heads. In other circumstances, such an environment might be posted as a "hard hat area". It should also be remembered that shopping at a Home Depopt could involve a higher degree of risk, and it might make sense to leave the kids at home. Suffice it to say that companies like Home Depot and Wal-Mart have had customers and their own employees seriously injured on their premises. No amount of training or press releases can bring Janessa Horner back. Caveat Emptor: you are bearing some risk when you shop at stores that stack high and drive forklifts down the aisles. In this case, a simply family decision to take along the child turned into a catastrophe. These cases are rarely given much major media attention, but common sense would tell you that forklifts and stacked merchandise are a dangerous combination.










 
 
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