Ralph Pickens Killed In Wood Chipper Accident At Pollard Lumber Company

work accident

Columbia County Officials Investigating Fatal Workplace Accident After Worker Identified As Ralph Pickens Was Pulled Into Wood Chipper At Pollard Lumber Company In Appling, Georgia

work accidentAPPLING, GEORGIA (February 7, 2024) – A 63-year-old worker identified as Ralph Pickens has tragically died after being pulled into a wood chipper at Pollard Lumber Company in Appling, Georgia. 

Columbia County officials are saying that the incident took place on Monday February 4. Ralph Pickens became entangled on an industrial conveyor wood chipper. 

Paramedics were called to the Pollard Lumber Company in order to help the victim. Sadly, though, Ralph Pickens was beyond medical aid and pronounced dead at the scene. 

A full investigation into the accident remains ongoing at this time. It remains unclear if the wood chipper involved in the accident had adequate safety features. 

Liability For Appling Workplace Accidents

Nearly 5,000 workers are killed every year in the United States with 2022 being one of the deadliest years on record. Many of these accidents involved workers who became entangled in machinery. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, “Fatalities due to contact with objects and equipment increased 4.7 percent from 705 fatalities in 2021 to 738 in 2022. This is the highest count for this event category since 2018. Machinery was the source of 199 fatalities within this category.” There are a number of steps that businesses should take in order to prevent workers from being injured by machinery. 

  • Businesses should provide comprehensive training to all workers on the proper operation of machinery, including safety procedures. 
  • Businesses may need to install machine guards and make sure that all equipment is well maintained. 
  • Businesses should supply workers with adequate safety gear including  all personal protective equipment (PPE). 

When a worker is injured or killed in Georgia, they or their family will typically have recourse through the worker’s compensation system. Worker’s compensation in Georgia operates off of a no-fault system. In other words, there is no need for an injured worker to demonstrate negligence in order to receive benefits. A worker or their family will still be able to recover even if a worker contributed to their own injury. 

Depending on the facts of any case, there could also be third party liability for any workplace accident. A third party liability claim may be possible if an entity separate from a worker’s employer contributed to any accident. For example, a third party may include the company that manufactured a piece of workplace equipment. Companies have a legal obligation to make products that are reasonably safe. They must also warn about the non-obvious dangers associated with their products. 

Consider, for example, one lawsuit against Williams Patent Crusher and Pulverizer Co. who make the XR430 Hog Wood Chipper. A 38-year-old man in St. Joseph Missouri tragically died after he fell into a wood chipper. Legal counsel for the worker’s family argued the XR430 Hog Wood Chipper lacked crucial safety features. It didn’t have an automatic shut-off or an emergency stop button. It also lacked rope, guards or flaps to protect operators. It is important that certain steps are taken after any workplace accident. 

  • The model number of any machinery involved in a workplace accident should be known. 
  • A police report should be created. 
  • Eye witnesses should be interviewed. 
  • Photos of the machinery involved in the accident should be taken. 

The vast majority of workplace accidents are preventable. They often involved lapses in safety standards. But no matter how safe a business or employee may be, there is still the chance of injury or death with any piece of machinery. Manufacturers of heavy machinery have known for a long time how to best keep workers safe. But a number of companies have chosen to forgo certain safety features in order to increase their own profit margins. 

Investigating Columbia County Industrial Accidents

We at The Butler Kahn Law Firm extend our deepest condolences to the family of Ralph Pickens. There needs to be a thorough investigation into what went wrong for the sake of this man’s family. Any person that may have more information should reach out to OSHA. It is our sincere hope that measures are taken to prevent similar tragedies. Going to work to provide for your family should never become a death sentence. 

Do you need more information about a Columbia County workplace accident? Our team of worker’s rights advocates are here to answer any questions that you may have. We care deeply that workers are aware of their rights and employers are doing everything in their power to keep workers safe. Whether you have any questions or need a free, independent investigation into any particular incident we are here for you. You can reach out to us anytime at 678-940-1444.

Picture of Jeb Butler
Jeb Butler’s career as a Georgia trial lawyer has led to a $150 million verdict in a product liability case against Chrysler for a dangerous vehicle design that caused the death of a child, a $45 million settlement for a young man who permanently lost the ability to walk and talk, and numerous other verdicts and settlements, many of which are confidential at the defendant’s insistence. Jeb has worked on several cases that led to systemic changes and improvements in public safety. He has been repeatedly recognized as a Georgia SuperLawyer and ranks among Georgia’s legal elite. Jeb graduated in the top 10% of his class at UGA Law, argued on the National Moot Court team, and published in the Law Review. He is the founding partner of Butler Kahn law firm. Connect with me on LinkedIn
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