Improperly Guarded Machinery Can Cost Workers Life and Limb

Any machinery with gears, pulleys, belts, blades, saws, chains, rollers, flywheels, spindles or other parts that rotate, reciprocate, transverse, cut, punch, shear, grind or bend run the risk of seriously injuring or killing the employees who use them. Common injuries involve crushed fingers, hands and limbs that can result in amputation. Not only do these unfortunate situations cause irreparable injuries, but also expose the employer to liability and fines.

From its 2005 annual survey, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported 8,450 non-fatal amputation cases. To no one's surprise, the survey found that 44 percent of those cases occurred in the manufacturing sector. The remaining cases were spread among the construction, agriculture, wholesale, and retail trade and service industries. Thankfully, that number dropped to just 6,230 cases in 2008.

Employers Can Prevent These Accidents

Machine guards help prevent accidental or unnecessary contact with dangerous machine parts. The Occupational and Safety Hazard Administration (OSHA) provides employers with regulations pertaining to machinery and machine guarding.

Regulation 29 CFR 1910.212(a)(1) requires that "[o]ne or more methods of machine guarding shall be provided to protect the operator and other employees in the machine area from hazards such as those created by point of operation, ingoing nip points, rotating parts, flying chips and sparks. Examples of guarding methods are-barrier guards, two-hand tripping devices, electronic safety devices, etc."

In addition to recognizing potential hazards and creating the proper physical protections, employers should also train their employees on the specific machines they work and/or maintain. OSHA also provides training and education, as well as detailed publications regarding workplace safety. These resources provide employers with few excuses to not protect their employees from serious injury and death.

Liability Issues

There are several possible sources of compensation for injuries, especially amputations, resulting from machinery-related incidents. If the machine's poor design or defective manufacturing contributed to the injury, the maker of the machine could be liable. If the employer was negligent in maintaining the machine, ensuring the proper safety equipment or training machine operators, the employer could be liable as well. Each injury situation is different, and an attorney can help you determine who may be liable for your injuries.

If you or a loved one has been injured or killed in a machinery accident, contact an experienced injury attorney to discuss your situation and your options. You could be eligible for workers' compensation benefits and be entitled to money for lost wages, pain and suffering, medical bills, and more.

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