APPEAL from the Circuit Court of Whiteside County; the Hon.
L.E. ELLISON, Judge, presiding.
MR. PRESIDING JUSTICE SCOTT DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT:
Jeffrey Stephenson, the plaintiff, was employed at Drive's, Inc., as a press operator. He was injured while operating a press manufactured by Dreis & Krump Manufacturing Company on August 9, 1977, his second day on the job.
Prior to obtaining this employment, the plaintiff had worked on a press at another plant for approximately 4-5 months. Upon being hired by Drive's, Stephenson was furnished a booklet of safety material including instructions specifically directed to press operators. There was a section in the material spelling out the steps an operator was to take when clearing an obstruction in the machine.
The plaintiff testified that he had read the safety material and understood it prior to reporting for work. He also received on-the-job training and instruction from Larry Bell, operator of the press in question, and Robert Banse, group leader.
Among the instructions given to the plaintiff was the procedure to be followed when clearing the press or when a portion of the operator's body was to be placed under the ram, to-wit:
1. Depress stop button for motor.
2. Stop flywheel with brake or wait for it to stop.
3. Depress safety switch on right side.
4. Pull interlocked safety block from plug.
5. Insert safety block under ram.
The plaintiff admitted that he was aware of the danger in placing a portion of his body under the ram without taking these precautions but voluntarily proceeded to put his arm in the machine while attempting to clear it, even though he had not depressed the stop button for the motor, stopped the flywheel or waited for it to stop or used the safety block.
The ram descended on the plaintiff's right arm resulting in the injury (amputation) giving rise to an action for personal injury based upon strict tort products liability. There was testimony that this could have occurred only if the plaintiff had his foot on the foot switch and that he also came into contact with the switch on the safety gate when reaching into the machine.
There was no malfunction in the press when it was checked after the incident, and it has been used ...