Failure to Use Machine Safeguarding a Source of Workers’ Compensation Claims in NC

Crushed arms and hands, fingers amputated, and lost eyesight. These are all possible machinery-related injuries that can result when moving parts of a machine are not properly safeguarded. As the Occupational Safety and Health Administration notes, safeguards are critical to protecting workers from needless and preventable injuries. Essentially, any machine part, process, or function that has the potential to cause injury needs to be guarded. A wide range of mechanical motions and actions can be hazardous to workers, and businesses have to take these risks seriously. machine

This issue cropped up again recently at a paper and plastic recycling company in Georgia, which is located in OSHA’s Region 4, the same that oversees North Carolina and South Carolina companies.

According to the recent news release, the citations issued to the paper company included 21 serious and three other-than-serious health and safety violations – including exposing workers to the risk of amputation hazards as a result of missing machine guards.

Serious violations are those wherein a workplace hazard could cause an accident or illness that would most likely result in a severe workplace injury via physical harm or death. The only exception here is if the employer didn’t know or could not have known about the violation. Meanwhile, an “other-than-serious” violation is one in which the violation has some type of direct relationship to workers’ safety and health, but it is not necessarily serious.

In this case, of the nearly two dozen serious violations, there were allegations that ranged from failures to control the noise level to major fall hazards. Workers allegedly weren’t properly trained on how to work dangerous equipment, and many didn’t receive the proper protective safety gear.

Specifically with regard to machine guarding, 29 CFR 1910.212(a)(1) requires one or more methods of machine guarding to protect the operator of the machine, plus others who may be working in the area, from dangers that are created by rotating parts, in-going nip points, and flying sparks and chips.

When investigators were on site examining the facility, they discovered that workers were exposed to caught-in hazards when certain equipment, including return idler rollers, guillotine shears, and horizontal balers, either weren’t guarded or weren’t adequately guarded. Even though these safeguards were not in place, employees still were made to work and clean under and near these dangerous locations.

On the return idle rollers, workers ran the risk of getting caught in the running nip points.

Regarding the guillotine shear, the rear and unused part of the blade wasn’t guarded, exposing workers to the risk of being struck by the blade.

With the horizontal baler, workers were at risk of being struck by the threader. There were also possible amputation risks posed by the emergency stop control box not being mounted immediately next to the side of the conveyor. There were also bolts missing on the guard that covered the hinge cover.

For these violations alone, the company was fined $6,236 by OSHA.

Employers were ordered to promptly correct these issues and others in order to ensure worker safety.

Workers who are injured as a result of a lack of machine guarding or failed machine guarding are probably not going to be able to sue their employer in addition to collecting workers’ compensation, per the exclusivity rule. However, it may be possible, depending on the circumstances, to take the maker of that machine to task if the manual was not properly written or if there was some other machine defect.

Contact the Carolina workers’ compensation lawyers at the Lee Law Offices by calling 800-887-1965.

Additional Resources:

Neckles v. Teeter – N.C. Court of Appeals Rules Injured Worker Entitled to Ongoing Compensation, Jan. 23, 2017, North Carolina Workers’ Compensation Lawyer Blog

More Blog Entries:

Reece v. Sodexo, Inc. – N.C. Appeals Court Affirms Denial of Workers’ Compensation Benefits, Jan. 18, 2017, Winston-Salem Workers’ Compensation Lawyer Blog

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