In 2016, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration released a report that showed that there were 10,388 severe injuries caused by workplace conditions in 2015. Of those 10,000+ injuries, 2,644 were amputations. That amounts to more than seven amputations in a single day. In collecting its data, OSHA only collected stats from 26 states, all of which have higher safety standards than the remaining 24. Moreover, OHSA suspects that as many as 50% of all amputation cases are unreported. This means that the number of amputations in the workplace is likely much higher. More than 90% of amputations in the workplace involve toes, hands, and feet. The report also indicates that a startling number of workers had their eyes gouged out on the job, but that is a report for another day.
One might think that in 2015, our systems and equipment would be advanced enough to prevent amputations, but the numbers clearly indicate otherwise. OSHA has taken notice and developed an initiative, which it released in 2017, that was targeted at workplace amputations. Part of the initiative concerned reporting. Per OSHA’s regulations, employers are required to report serious accidents within 24 hours. That said, reporting will not prevent serious injury such as amputation. What will? OSHA explores that in its Amputation Fact Sheet.
Causes of Amputation in the Workplace
To better understand how and why amputations in the workplace occur, it is important to understand what types of equipment are most commonly involved in amputation accidents. According to OSHA, amputations are more likely to occur when workers operate unguarded or inadequately safeguarded equipment such as the following:
- Printing presses;
- Food slicers, meat grinders, drill presses, meat-cutting band saws, and milling machines;
- Power press brakes;
- Mechanical power presses;
- Powered and non-powered conveyor belts;
- Roll-forming and roll-bending machines; and
- Sheers, grinders, and slitters.
Amputations also occur when workers operate forklifts, doors, trash compactors, and powered and non-powered hand-tools such as saws.
Accidents commonly occur during normal operation. However, that does not mean that the machines are innocent when not in use. There are several reports of amputations occurring during the set-up, prep, threading, cleaning, adjusting, lubricating, and maintaining of the machines, as well.
Machines such as those mentioned above are full of dangerous components. According to OSHA, the following components present an amputation hazard:
- All points of a machine that performs work on material;
- The pulleys, belts, flywheels, spindles, couplings, cams, and gears used to power a machine; and
- All moving parts such as rotating, reciprocating, and transverse moving parts.
What Employers can do to Prevent Amputations
The key to preventing amputations is recognizing which equipment and tools pose a risk. Once those machines are identified, employers should take measures to safeguard the machines so as to minimize risk as much as possible. Some measures OSHA requires employers to take are as follows:
- Install physical barriers that prevent unauthorized access to areas with hazardous machinery. Workers should not be able to bypass, remove, or tamper with these guards. However, the guards should not impede operators’ vision or prevent employers from operating equipment in a safe manner.
- Install devices that help prevent contact with points of operation. These devices, if installed at all the correct points, may replace or supplement guards. However, these devices must allow safe maintenance and lubrication and should not interfere with normal machine operation. Additionally, they must be secure and durable, as they will see as much wear and tear as the machine itself.
- Train employees on safe machine operations and instill work practices and administrative controls that help prevent and control amputation hazards.
If an employer fails to take appropriate measures set forth by OSHA and state laws, and if a worker sustains injuries as a result, the employer can be held liable for injuries. For this reason, employers should always inspect new equipment to ensure it has the appropriate safeguards and devices (new machinery usually does), and if it does not, discuss with the manufacturer what safeguards it can invest in to protect workers.
Contact Our Rockford Workplace Accidents Attorney Today
If you or a loved one was involved in a workplace accident that resulted in amputation, there is a good chance the employer did not take proper measures to prevent the incident. Our Rockford workplace accident lawyers at Brassfield, Krueger & Ramlow, LTD. will investigate the incident, determine the cause, and help you recover the workers’ compensation benefits you deserve. Contact our office today to learn more.