Federal regulators warn of risk for amputations and other injuries from dangerous machines

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by Jay Pate

There are more than 8,000 non-fatal amputation injuries every year in the United States. Such injuries are almost always permanently disabling. The danger of amputations can be posed by an almost endless list of machines or tools: saws, presses, conveyors, bending, rolling or shaping machines, hand tools, forklifts, doors, trash compactors and so on.

We agree with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration that workplace amputations can be prevented by taking the effort to evaluate workplace operations and identify hazards associated with the use and care of any machines. (See, OSHA “Safeguarding Equipment and Protecting Employees from Amputations.”) However, not all machine manufacturers and employers are bothering to make their machines and workplaces as safe as they could and should be.

Earlier this year, a Houston-based company that fabricates high-pressure hydraulic fracturing valves for the oil and gas industry was cited by OSHA for exposing workers at the company’s Conroe, Texas facility to multiple safety hazards, including amputation dangers. The company was cited with one willful, six serious and four other-than-serious violations and all the proposed penalties total $105,000.

A willful violation is one committed with intentional, knowing or voluntary disregard for the law’s requirements, or with plain indifference to employee safety and health. The willful violation here was for failing to provide the required machine guarding to prevent employees from coming in contact with moving machinery parts such as vertical and manual lathes. (See, Regulators Propose $105K Fine for Hazards at Texas Facility, Claims Journal (May 11, 2012)).

Moving machine parts have the potential to cause severe workplace injuries. Crushed fingers or hands, amputations, burns, or blindness can be prevented through machine safeguards. Any machine part, function, or process that may cause injury should be safeguarded. Proper safeguards should meet minimum general requirements, such as:

  • Prevent contact: The safeguard must prevent hands, arms, and any other part of an operator’s body from making contact with dangerous moving parts.
  • Secure: Operators should not be able to easily remove or tamper with the safeguard because a safeguard that can easily be made ineffective is no safeguard at all.
  • Protect from falling objects: The safeguard should ensure that no objects can fall into moving parts.
  • Create no new hazards: A safeguard defeats its own purpose if it creates a hazard such as a shear point, a jagged edge, or an unfinished surface that could cause a laceration.
  • Create no interference: Any safeguard that impedes an operator from performing the job quickly and comfortably might soon be overridden or disregarded.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration provides a great deal of information about machine guarding regulation, safety and related issues by visiting the OSHA website.

To successfully bring about a claim involving amputation or other seriuous injury due to a dangerous machine, clients need an experienced, educated attorney on their side. They also need an attorney with the financial resources to take the case to trial. At Heygood, Orr & Pearson, we have tried literally hundreds of cases to verdict and have settled hundreds more. In 2010 alone, we negotiated settlements of personal injury and wrongful death claims totaling more than $50 million.

Heygood, Orr & Pearson also has the financial resources to handle personal injury cases from beginning to end. In fact, there are many instances when we have invested hundreds of thousands of dollars in a case in order to take it to trial. At Heygood, Orr & Pearson, we are committed to achieving justice for our clients, whatever the cost.

If you have suffered a serious personal injury or a loved one has suffered a serious injury or death as the result of the actions of another person or entity, you may have a claim for compensation. Contact the lawyers at Heygood, Orr & Pearson for your free case evaluation and to learn more about your legal right to compensation. You can reach us by calling toll-free at 1-877-446-9001, or by filling out a free legal consultation form.