Work-Related Amputation Results in OSHA Fine

A company is facing steep fines from federal regulators at the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) for citations issued after a machine operator suffered a work-related amputation.worker6

The U.S. Department of Labor’s OSHA division launched its investigation into the plan after the machinist’s middle finger had to be amputated. At the time of the accident, the 53-year-old worker had been trying to reassemble a machine intended to separate chicken parts. At some point, the machine turned on suddenly and unexpectedly.

The incident, in Alabama, drew ire from the federal agency’s spokeswoman, who flatly stated this incident was not just unfortunate, but easily preventable. In fact, the company was aware that workers were exposed to the possibility of an amputation because they knew certain machines were prone to unexpected start-up. And yet, the company did not take action to address the malfunction nor did they warn workers of the issue. 

Amputation risks are present in all sorts of work environments – from factories to office buildings. Just last year, a 17-year-old restaurant worker in New York suffered a severed right arm at the elbow while cleaning out a pasta machine that suddenly turned on.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports there are an estimated 5,100 workers who suffer amputations annually. Bear in mind, though, these statistics are low-ball estimates. That’s because its “Survey of Occupational Injuries and Illnesses” relies 100 percent on data that is self-reported by employers. Some categories of workers – such as those working for certain government agencies, farm workers and others – aren’t included at all, as they are not bound by the federal reporting requirement.

Researchers at Michigan State University calculated that the BLS numbers under-count the true number of work-related amputations by as much as 70 percent. This is compounded by the fact that some employers falsify their records with regard to work-related amputations and others don’t understand exactly what is supposed to be recorded. What’s more, workers may be reluctant or discouraged to report these injuries for fear of compensation for filing a workers’ compensation claim.

The Alabama amputation case also raises another important area of concern, and that is the danger many poultry industry workers face. Poultry processing plants are big business across the southern U.S., and particularly in North Carolina. These jobs are important, particularly for some rural communities, but workers face a significant amount of danger.

A report by The Southern Poverty Law Center titled, “Unsafe at These Speeds” revealed workers in poultry plants are routinely exposed to extremely hazardous conditions and suffer much higher rates of injury than other types of workers. Most often, the injuries are the result of workers having to toil at a pace that is unsustainably fast.

In the case against the Alabama poultry plant where the machinist’s finger was amputated, OSHA has proposed a $77,000 fine against the company. The company is accused of failing to develop or train its workers on specific policies to prevent machines from starting up during service and maintenance.

Late last year, the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs filed two lawsuits against this same company alleging discriminatory hiring practices at two other locations – including one in North Carolina.

If you have been injured at work, contact the Lee Law Offices at 800-887-1965.

Additional Resources:

Pilgrim’s Pride faces OSHA violations after worker injured in Alabama, March 10, 2016, By Lucy Berry, AL.com

More Blog Entries:

Anderson-Green v. N.C. DHHS – Unreasonable Delay of Workers’ Comp, March 11, 2016, Charlotte Workers’ Compensation Lawyer Blog

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