What Should I Know About Power Tool Accidents?
December 16, 2020
Power tools help workers perform tasks more efficiently because electricity, compressed air, steam, or an internal combustion engine powers them. Unlike hammers and other implements that are operated manually, power tools have a component that controls the movement of the tool. These components are capable of applying immense force to get a job done. However, when a power tool is defective, or a worker is not properly trained on its use, serious injury or death may result. Employees who experience on-the-job power tool accidents should know that they may be eligible for Workers’ Compensation benefits, as well as additional damages if the injury was due to the negligence of a third party.
Types of Power Tools and Where They Are Used
Some of the most common types of power tools involved in workplace accidents include the following:
Air compressors. Compressors are used to power paint sprayers, abrasive sandblasters, fill tires, and clean machinery. Commonly used in manufacturing, auto repair shops, and construction, they may also be used on jobsites in lieu of electricity to power other tools. Air compressors are also used in HVAC to shift refrigerants and control valves.
Bandsaws. This type of saw is usually mounted and features bands of toothed metal for cutting wood or metal. Used in construction, machine shops, and lumber mills, variations of bandsaws are also used in food processing plants and butcher shops to cut meat.
Chainsaws. Chainsaws are hand-held tools most often used to cut wood in construction, landscaping, firefighting, and the lumber industry. Some specialized chainsaws can cut brick or concrete.
Circular saws. Commonly used in woodworking shops, these saws may also be used in construction to cut metal, brick, or concrete, depending on the type of blade. When mounted on a sliding horizontal arm, they are known as radial saws. Mitered saws, which are circular saws that can be positioned at various angles, are rapidly replacing radial saws.
Belt and disc sanders. Belt sanders flatten and polish wood, metal, aluminum, or PVC and are found in a variety of manufacturing and fabrication environments, including automotive, petrochemical, and construction. Disc sanders are similar tools used in secondary stages of sanding.
Drills. Drills are used for boring and fastening in construction, manufacturing, machine shops, repair shops, and many other types of industries. For additional power, an electric drill can be converted into a pneumatic drill by attaching an air compressor.
Floor sanders. Resembling a cross between a vacuum cleaner and a lawn mower, these sanders are operated from a standing position and must remain in constant motion when in use. They are often utilized in construction and home remodeling to finish wood floors.
Heat guns. Used to remove paint or repair roofs, these tools discharge heat at high temperatures of up to 1,500 degrees Fahrenheit. Construction workers, painters, and roofers often rely on heat guns at job sites.
Impact wrenches. Used in auto repair shops to loosen the lug nuts of motor vehicles, impact wrenches are also employed in construction or other situations requiring immense torque. A hammering mechanism in the wrench delivers strong concussive blows in rapid succession.
Jackhammers. Commonly used by road crews and construction workers to break through concrete and stone, they have also been used by the military and rescue teams to recover survivors from collapsed buildings.
Jigsaws. Also called scroll saws, these tools are used in manufacturing and construction to make curved cuts through plastic, tile, or wood using motorized, reciprocating blades.
Lathes. Lathes shape wood or metal by rotating an object around a stationary cutting tool. Commonly used by machine shop workers, metal fabricators, cabinet makers, and in a variety of manufacturing environments.
Lifts and jacks. Hydraulic lifts and jacks are used to lift heavy loads. Jacks use a screw thread to life cars or other objects while lifts are more like a miniature elevator, employing pumps to push oil into a cylinder to raise and lower the platform. Commonly used in machine rooms, warehouses, auto repair shops, and construction sites.
Nail guns. Nail guns use compressed air or a flammable gas to drive the head of a nail with greater force than a hammer. Used extensively by frame carpenters and roofers, these tools have essentially replaced hammers in construction and roofing.
Table saws. Used in home repair and construction, table saw operators push wood items toward a mounted saw with a rapidly spinning blade. Woodworkers, cabinet makers, and construction workers use table saws.
Familiar household equipment, such as lawnmowers and snowblowers, are also examples of power tools used by workers in landscaping and building maintenance.
What Types of Injuries are Caused by Power Tools?
Each day, power tools are involved in thousands of workplace injuries, ranging from minor cuts to debilitating harm or death. Examples of common injuries and their causes include the following:
Amputations. Workers operating any type of saw run the risk of amputating a finger. However, serious trauma caused by nail guns, jackhammers, or any other power tool may result in the amputation of a limb. Nearly 70 percent of amputations due to trauma involve the upper limbs.
Burns. Heat guns can easily cause severe burns, as can any power tool that relies on combustion to operate. Electric tools operated in the presence of fumes may also cause explosions.
Electric shock. Any tool powered by electricity can cause an electric shock if wired incorrectly, grounded improperly, worn out, or operated near water. Improper use of extension cords is a common cause of shock on jobsites.
Fractures. Workers using lifts or jacks may suffer fractures and broken bones from caught-in/between accidents.
Hearing loss. Exposure to noise from jackhammers, saws, drills, sanders or other tools can cause permanent hearing loss if workers are not equipped with adequate hearing protection.
Lacerations. Any type of power tool may cause cuts, however, lacerations from saws are quite common. According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), more than 30,000 table saw injuries occur annually, and most of these are lacerations.
Lung damage. Occupational exposure to sawdust from sanders or other wood-cutting tools may result in asthma, chronic bronchitis, and other types of lung impairment, according to the NIH.
Puncture wounds. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nail guns are responsible for more than 35,000 emergency room visits per year, resulting in puncture wounds to arms and hands, serious injuries, and death. Drills and other tools may also cause puncture wounds.
Repetitive motion injuries. Jackhammers, as well as drills, sanders, saws, and other hand-held tools, may cause Hand-Arm Vibration Syndrome, Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, or other repetitive stress injuries. It may take months or years before the seriousness of a repetitive stress injury becomes evident.
Traumatic brain injury. Forceful blasts from air compressors, jackhammers, or tools powered by internal combustion engines can violently throw workers on the ground, causing serious brain damage.
Unfortunately, some power tool injuries may be fatal. A Workers’ Compensation lawyer can advocate for the families of workers who succumbed to injuries from chainsaws, air compressors, jacks, and other types of power tools.
Preventing Power Tool Injuries
Power tools that are defective put workers at serious risk for injury. Likewise, even well-made tools can be extremely dangerous if used improperly. Employers and manufacturers each bear significant responsibility for preventing power tool injuries.
Employers. There are multiple ways in which employers can ensure safety and minimize the risk of injury to workers, including the following:
- Ensuring that workers have access to the right tools for the jobs they are required to perform
- Maintaining guards on saws and other safety measures as needed
- Providing workers with time and resources to inspect and maintain tools
- Decommissioning tools that are worn out or otherwise unsafe to use
- Training workers on proper use and maintaining of power tools
- Supplying workers with the appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE), such as gloves, safety goggles, and masks
By law, employers are required to following the guidelines of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) regarding these responsibilities.
Manufacturers. Manufacturers are responsible for foreseeing inherent dangers in the use of their products and providing safety mechanisms to prevent injury. Manufacturers are also required by law to provide warning labels and written instructions for use and maintenance to minimize the risk of injury. Manufacturers, distributors, and retailers may be subject to products liability lawsuits if they fail to fulfil these responsibilities.
Many power tool accidents can be prevented by educating workers on known hazards and training them on safe handling. Workers who have been properly equipped and trained face much less of a risk for injury when using power tools.
What Should Workers Do if They are Injured by a Power Tool?
Power tool injuries are, unfortunately, quite common. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) reports that workshop and indoor power tools are responsible for approximately 400,000 emergency room visits and hundreds of fatalities per year. Injured workers should always report the injury to their supervisor or manager at work as soon as possible and provide as much information as they can. In Pennsylvania, employees must report injuries to their employers within 120 days and file a Workers’ Compensation claim within three years to remain eligible for benefits. Injured workers may also be eligible for additional damages if a manufacturer or other third party is found to be responsible for the injury. Obtaining additional damages requires filing a third-party personal injury claim. Workers should call a Workers’ Compensation lawyer for experienced legal guidance regarding this process.
Philadelphia Workers’ Comp Lawyers at Galfand Berger LLP Represent Workers Injured in Power Tool Accidents
If you or a loved one has been injured while using a power tool at work, the Philadelphia Workers’ Comp lawyers at Galfand Berger LLP are dedicated to assisting injured workers by helping them navigate the Workers’ Compensation process. For a free consultation, call 800-222-8792 or contact us online. From our offices in Philadelphia, Bethlehem, Lancaster, and Reading, Pennsylvania, we proudly assist clients throughout Pennsylvania and New Jersey, including Allentown and Harrisburg.