The State ex rel. Ohio Paperboard, Appellant,
Industrial Commission of Ohio, et al., Appellees.
Submitted September 26, 2017
from the Court of Appeals for Franklin County, No. 15AP-871,
Miller, L.L.P., and Corey Crognale, for appellant.
Michael DeWine, Attorney General, and John R. Smart,
Assistant Attorney General, for appellee Industrial
Larrimer & Larrimer, and Thomas L. Reitz, for appellee
John S. Ruckman.
1} Appellant, Ohio Paperboard ("OP"),
challenges appellee Industrial Commission's award of
additional compensation for violation of a specific safety
requirement ("VSSR"). The commission determined
that OP violated Ohio Adm.Code 4123:1-5-05(C)(2), (C)(4), and
(D)(1), which require guards and emergency-shut-off buttons
on power-driven conveyors, and that the violations were the
proximate cause of the injuries to appellee John S. Ruckman.
2} For the reasons that follow, we reverse the
judgment of the court of appeals and issue a writ of mandamus
ordering the commission to vacate its order and to issue a
new order denying the application for an additional award for
3} OP operates a recycled-paper mill. The company
receives bales of recycled paper bound with wire, each bale
weighing approximately 900 pounds. The bales are loaded onto
a conveyor that transports them into a pulper, where they are
shredded. As the bales are transported to the pulper, an
overhead saw cuts the bailing wire. Most of the cut wires end
up in the pulper, but some get wrapped around the shafts and
gears of the conveyor.
4} Routine preventive maintenance is performed on
the conveyor for several hours every Monday. The weekly
maintenance includes removing pieces of baling wire caught in
the conveyor. On the day of the accident, Ruckman and a
coworker, Mark Horvath, were assigned to do the maintenance
work. First, the conveyor operator, John Smith, who worked
inside a control shack, ran the conveyor until all the bales
had been transferred to the pulper, then he switched the
machine from operational mode to maintenance mode. At that
point, Ruckman and Horvath began their maintenance duties.
They followed the company's required lock-out/tag-out
procedures and shut down the machine. They also removed a
guard in order to access and remove wires wrapped around the
chains and sprockets.
5} At some point, Horvath left the area to get oil
for the conveyor, and Ruckman, in an attempt to remove wires
that were stuck underneath a gear, unlocked and activated the
conveyor and then reached in to grab the wires. The moving
conveyor caught his hand and pulled it into the machine,
crushing it. Ruckman was unable to reach the emergency-stop
button to stop the machine.
6} Ruckman's workers' compensation claim was
allowed for the following conditions: left-hand amputation
and replantation, major depressive disorder, and total loss
of use of the left hand.
7} He filed an application for an additional award
for VSSR, alleging that OP had violated Ohio Adm.Code 4123:
1-5-05(C)(2), (C)(4), and (D)(1), which require guards and
emergency-shut-off buttons on power-driven conveyors, and
that those violations were the proximate cause of his
8} Following a hearing, a staff hearing officer
concluded that Ruckman's injury was a result of his
employer's failure to comply with those three specific
safety regulations. The hearing officer rejected OP's
argument that Ruckman's injury was caused by his
unilateral negligence in failing to follow the safety
procedures that his employer required. The hearing ...