Massachusetts workers take note; there has been a recent study conducted that sheds new light on the frequency and prevention of amputation injuries in the workplace.
Amputations are one of the most severe and debilitating types of workplace injuries. A moment’s inattention or single misstep, as well as defective or unguarded mechanical equipment can lead to irreparable damage of a limb and result in permanent disability or even the end of a career.
According to the Minnesota Department of Health, there were 5,280 non-fatal amputations in the United States (a rate of 6 per every 100,000 workers); the lowest ever recorded. The greatest number of incidences occurred in 2005, with 8,450 non-fatal amputations. The majority of these types of workplace injuries occur in manufacturing plants and more than 50% occur in construction, agriculture, wholesale and retail trade, and service industries, collectively. Not surprisingly, about 96% of amputations involve loss of a finger.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics recognized four types of hazardous exposures that can cause amputation including: machinery and workplace equipment, parts or materials that may collapse on and crush a worker, motor vehicles including forklifts and tractors, and hand tools. While this Minnesota study was national, the findings and information relate to all Massachusetts workplace employees.
Types of Hazardous Machines
Some of the most common machines that pose amputation hazards include:
• Mechanical power presses • Powered and non-powered conveyor belts • Printing presses • Roll-forming/bending machines • Sheering machines • Food slicers • Meat-cutting saws • Drill presses • Milling machines
• Grinding machines • Slitters
Before operating any type of machinery, employees should 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. Types of 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 are 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 essential as well as the responsibility of each employer to ensure the safety of employees. 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.
Experiencing any type of severe workplace injury can be a life-altering event and may not only inhibit you returning to work, but cause emotional and physical duress that may prevent 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.