- February 10, 2023
- Attorney Matt Stoddard
- Premises Liability
Woodworking has come a long way since the days of waterwheels and flumes. Centuries of technological advancement have improved efficiency, sustainability, cleanliness, and at least in theory, safety. Yet the lumber industry remains one of the most dangerous in the U.S.
Modern machines can cut about as many boards in an hour as an antique sawmill could in a day, without needing a worker to place their hands repeatedly near the sawblade, as they once would have.
These machines are still quite dangerous, however, if used or maintained incorrectly. The same conveyor mechanisms that move the wood can easily catch a person’s fingers or clothing instead.
Unfortunately, profit-driven companies, including those that run and supply sawmills, often focus only on improving efficiency, neglecting even simple, obvious safety measures. The result is needless deaths and injuries.
A Young Father of Two Has Been Killed on the Job at Battle Lumber
Trenton Lewis, a 31-year-old employee of the Battle Lumber sawmill in Wadley, died in an apparent accident while at work on December 7th, 2022.
The exact details of that accident are currently unclear, but the Jefferson County Coroner has confirmed his cause of death to be blunt force trauma to the torso. One of Lewis’s friends has publicly alleged that he was caught in a piece of industrial machinery.
This would not be the first serious equipment accident of this kind to take place at Battle Lumber. In 2006, OSHA found that a deceased employee of the mill had been dragged into a Gang Curve Saw Module, where his head was crushed between the rollers. Then, in 2017, an employee’s hand was caught and dragged by an unguarded chain sprocket assembly. That employee survived, but lost most of a finger and sustained injuries to three others.
Whatever happened in the mill on December 7th, it robbed Lewis of his life, his wife, Malorie, of her husband, and their two young daughters of their father.
Sawmill workers and their families should be able to trust modern mills to maintain safe equipment and support safe usage. At the very least, these survivors deserve answers, along with compensation from whatever entity or entities allowed this breach of safety.
Battle Lumber’s Safety Record Is Suspect, but Others May Share Responsibility
Industrial accidents are preventable. When they happen, it’s often because the industrial facility did not correctly maintain its equipment, train its workers, or encourage a culture that sincerely values safety over speed.
That said, industrial safety relies on the good-faith efforts of multiple companies working together. Sawmill owners must often put their trust in outside manufacturers and maintenance companies, for example, to make sure their equipment is safe.
Examining every possible source of negligence is critical in cases like these, not only because it prevents less obvious wrongdoers from continuing to endanger workers without consequence, but because it can have a huge impact on the compensation the survivors receive.
Under worker’s comp law, employers are generally immune to lawsuits for workplace accidents, including fatal accidents. Instead, surviving family members are allowed to collect compensation through the worker’s comp system itself. This process is faster and does not require as much evidence as a civil lawsuit, but it pays out much smaller settlements than what the employer would be liable for in court.
However, companies that do not have an employer-employee relationship with the accident victim, such as an equipment supplier, can be sued for a full wrongful death settlement. This applies even if the family has already received a worker’s comp payout.
The Stoddard Firm excels at identifying and proving negligence, both obvious and subtle. If you are Malorie Lewis, or if you have also lost a loved one to an industrial accident in Georgia, please feel free to reach out to the Stoddard Firm to learn more about how we can help.