Heroic Act Goes Unnoticed: Company Evading Liability in Accident

An Alabama steel company is attempting to avoid liability in an incident that left an employee with life-altering injuries.

On October 13, 2021, Mr. Ron Nichols, a foreman for McAbee Construction, led a team responsible for moving and installing heavy gearboxes and heat shields at the Pipe Mill for US Steel.

The gearboxes used by US Steel can weigh over 300 lbs. To ensure they are securely attached and welded in place, cranes are used to move them. The operator’s responsibility is to move the gearboxes using the crane. Mr. Nichols’ team was in charge of welding and labor work in the areas where the gearboxes needed to be installed.

However, US Steel’s employees failed to use the proper equipment to lift gearboxes, using a lifting bolt that broke and caused a crew member’s legs to be pinned against a pipe. When a co-worker failed to remove the gearbox using a pry bar, Mr. Nichols stepped in to help. Despite his first attempt being unsuccessful, Mr. Nichols persisted as the crewmember was in pain and he was unsure of the extent of their injury. Mr. Nichols asked for divine intervention, saying, “God, give me strength,” and put everything he had into it, successfully moving the gearbox enough to free his worker.

After his heroic act, Mr. Nichols realized that he had injured his back. Despite trying conservative treatments, his condition did not improve. Eventually, he had to undergo a series of surgeries on his lower back, including a hemilaminectomy. This procedure involved grinding off the bone of his vertebrae to relieve pressure on his spinal cord. Unfortunately, his back will never fully recover from the injury.

US Steel is attempting to avoid liability for its lack of preparation and safe operation of a heavy crane load. Mr. Nichols’ employer went as far as to order surveillance on him. He acted responsibly during an emergency and deserves recognition for his quick actions, not ridicule from a large corporation.

The case was filed and moved to federal court by US Steel. We’re seeking a remand to Jefferson County for discovery and trial.

On-the-Job Injuries

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