The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has cited Andover Healthcare Inc., a maker of coated fabrics and adhesives for the healthcare industry, for willfully exposing workers to safety hazards at its Salisbury, MA manufacturing plant.
According to OSHA documents, the company put workers’ lives at risk by exposing them to unsafe machinery. Workers were ultimately at risk for being caught in plant machinery or being crushed in said machinery. The company also faces violations for not properly training employees the lockout/tagout procedure when using dangerous machinery. The company is currently facing more than $93,000 worth of fines for two repeat violations and seven serious violations. In 2010 an OSHA investigation found that the company had intentionally put workers’ at risk-the same violations were made this month and carried fines of more than $65,000.
“It’s vital that employers develop and implement adequate lockout/tagout procedures to protect workers from moving machine parts during servicing and maintenance,” said Jeffery Erskine, OSHA’s area director for Middlesex and Essex counties. “Failure to do so places employees at risk of being caught in or crushed by machinery if it turns on during service or maintenance.”
OSHA found workers had been exposed to struck-by and crushing hazards from damaged or insecurely anchored steel storage racks and an unmarked crane lift. Additional hazards included unguarded machinery, a defective power cord and obstructed exit access. These conditions resulted in citations for seven serious violations, with $26,200 in fines. Finally, the company was cited for two other-than-serious violations, with $2,000 in fines, for failure to record the injuries properly, which resulted in medical treatment or lost workdays.
It is essential, before operating any type of machinery, that employees be adequately trained on how to conduct a hazard analysis; a technique that focuses on the relationship between the machine, the employee, the type of work being done, and the risk for potential injury. Additionally, employees should regularly inspect and service machinery to ensure it is running properly and does not pose hazards to operators.
The following types of mechanical hazards include:
• Pinch points; where two points move together with one operating in a circle; commonly found on belt drives, chain drives, gear drives, or feeder rolls.
• Wrap points; occurs when there is an exposed piece of rotating machinery, like a rotating shaft. These points can easily catch clothing or fingers.
• Shear points; where two moving parts move across one another or a single sharp edge moves with enough speed or force to cut; commonly found on conveyers, trimmers, and forklifts.
• Crush points; occurs when two objects are moving toward one another with enough force to crush an object that is caught in between. Gears on conveyer belts or other machinery, as well as pressing machines pose this hazard.
• Pull-in points; points where objects outside of machine are at risk of being pulled into equipment. Feeder rolls and grinders have pull-in points.
• Thrown objects; objects that are flung by machinery or moving parts; wood chippers are a common source of thrown objects.
Safeguarding is also an essential component of preventing such types of injuries. A safeguard is a mechanism installed onto or within the machine that detects and prevents hazards, and in the event of an accident, can halt a machine. There are different types of safeguarding devices including barrier guards; which physically obstruct contact between the point of hazard and the worker, as well as awareness devices; which signal a warning to an operator of an impending or present hazard.
Guards provide physical barriers that prevent access to hazardous parts of a machine. They should be strong and secure, and workers should not be able to remove, tamper with, or bypass these guards. They should not obstruct the operator’s view or prevent employees from working.
Devices help prevent contact with points of operation and may supplement or replace the use of guards. Devices can interrupt the normal cycle of the machine when the operator’s hands are at the point of operation, prevent the operator from reaching into the point of operation, or withdraw the operator’s hands as they approach the point of operation when the machine cycles. They must allow safe lubrication and maintenance and not create hazards or interrupt normal machine operation. Devices should be secure, tamper-resistant, and durable.
It is the responsibility of each employer to ensure the safety of employees, and ensure that employees have the proper training to do their job without threatening their health or their co-workers’ safety.
Experiencing any type of severe workplace injury can be a life-altering event and may not only prevent you from returning to work, but cause emotional and physical stress that may inhibit you from returning to your normal life. Employers are responsible for keeping workplaces safe for their employees to prevent injuries. If you or someone you love were a victim of a workplace injury, call or email the law office of Altman & Altman to schedule an appointment with one of our experienced Massachusetts Worker Compensation Lawyers for a free initial consultation. For nearly 50 years, we have been helping clients recover workers’ compensation benefits, lost wages, medical expenses, and compensation for emotional pain and suffering. Our attorneys are available around the clock to assist you through each and every part of your case and to answer any and all of your questions.