What are the Different Types of Heavy Machinery Accidents?
January 27, 2021
Heavy machinery is widely deployed in construction, mining, manufacturing, and warehousing. Studies show that occupational accidents involving heavy machinery account for a significant percentage of serious injuries and fatalities. Mobile heavy equipment, including trucks, are a factor in more than one-third of all construction site fatalities.
There are many reasons why these accidents happen. Don’t blame employees. Enter info about employer fault and third party liability. See our blue book/workers’ right to workers’ compensation
A qualified Philadelphia Workers’ Compensation lawyer can help injured employees file for Workers’ Compensation benefits and determine whether a third party may be liable for additional damages.
What Types of Heavy Machinery are Involved in Accidents?
There is a wide variety of heavy machinery and equipment in use today across a number of industries. In the construction industry, backhoes, dump trucks, and other heavy mobile equipment account for more than half of fatal accidents. In warehouses and factories, forklifts are commonly involved in serious accidents. The types of heavy machinery that present occupational hazards to workers include the following:
- Back end and front-end loaders
- Casting machines
- Cherry pickers
- Combines and other farming equipment
- Drilling, punching, and shearing equipment
- Dump trucks
- Hydraulic presses
- Pay haulers and pay loaders
- Pipe and tube benders
- Road graders and rollers
Operating or working near any type of heavy machinery exposes employees to significant risk of injury. If an incident happens, injuries may be devastating, including multiple fractures, amputations, brain trauma, and spinal cord damage.
What are Common Types of Heavy Machinery Accidents?
The most common types of accidents involving heavy machinery can be grouped into the following categories:
Struck-by accidents: These include instances in which a worker is hit by a truck or other mobile heavy equipment, as well as getting struck by a swinging crane or a load carried by equipment.
Falls: Falling from equipment or from a platform attached to equipment are two of the most frequent types of accidents. The cabs of many types of mobile heavy equipment are high off the ground; falls from those heights can result in serious bodily injury.
Caught-between or crushing accidents: There are many types of caught-between or crushing accidents, including de-gloving when a worker’s hand gets caught in a machine. Rollovers may crush operators or nearby workers when a piece of mobile heavy equipment tips over.
Electrocution: Live power lines high above a work area or buried under the ground present a real risk that is not always apparent to workers on a job site. An entire machine may conduct electricity into an operator or anyone touching the machinery, should any part of the equipment encounter a power line.
When are Heavy Machinery Accidents Most Likely to Occur?
Heavy machinery accidents can happen anytime, particularly if the equipment is defective or poorly maintained. On construction sites, studies show that heavy machinery accidents are most likely to happen when equipment operators are involved in the following tasks:
- Backing up or turning
- Operating on slopes or uneven surfaces
- Loading or unloading
- Getting on or off the vehicle
- Working near powerlines
- In warehouse corridors or on construction sites where objects from above can fall onto equipment operators
Improper loading or operating on uneven surfaces can result in rollover accidents, which are the leading cause of heavy equipment operator fatalities on excavation worksites. Workers who are walking on foot at excavation sites are more likely to suffer serious injuries by being struck by equipment loads or flying parts or objects. In factories and warehouses, heavy machinery accidents are more likely to happen when operators are engaged in the following tasks:
- Removing clogs or debris from machines
- Performing maintenance
- Operating equipment that lacks machine guards or other safety features
On construction sites, mining areas, warehouses, and factories, serious accidents often occur when other workers get crushed by forklifts or other vehicles that are backing up, or when workers are caught and dragged along by mobile machinery. Often, this is because the operator does not see the pedestrian because of blind spots or lack of warning lights on the equipment.
Why Do Heavy Machinery Accidents Occur?
It is a misconception that most accidents happen by chance. In reality, accidents occur because of a chain of events that, in most cases, include one or more negligent parties. It is the responsibility of the employer to maintain a safe workplace. That includes providing adequate safety measures, as well as training for employees and ensuring there are enough resources and time to perform maintenance on vehicles and heavy equipment. Manufacturers and dealers have a duty of care to provide equipment that includes adequate safety features that are designed to prevent accidents from happening. Common reasons why heavy machinery accidents happen include the following:
- Poor communication. When signals between equipment operators and workers on foot are lacking or misunderstood, pedestrian workers may be struck or crushed. Employers are responsible for training workers on communication protocols.
- Crowded work areas. People who are not operating mobile heavy machines should not be crowded into work areas. Employers must post signage indicating the areas that are off limits to pedestrians. This includes roping off areas within a machine’s swing radius. Inside warehouses, employers must ensure that aisles are not crowded, which can create blind spots.
- Lack of personal protective equipment (PPE). Lack of proper boots and gloves may contribute to accidents in which heavy equipment operators fall when getting on or off their machines. Proper PPE is also critical to the safety of workers operating drill presses, lathes, mixers, and other machinery in factories.
- Load instability. Improper loading may lead to rollover accidents. Workers must be trained on the proper procedures for loading and unloading heavy equipment. Employers should also make it possible for workers to maintain enough free space around the equipment should it become unstable.
- Overhead obstructions. Employers must clearly mark areas where there are powerlines or other overhead obstructions, as well as underground obstructions.
- Improper assembly or installation of equipment. Manufacturers or dealers are bound by a duty of care to correctly assembly heavy machinery that they produce or sell. This includes properly bolting machines to platforms or floors, and securely attaching machine or pouring guards. Serious or fatal injuries can result when equipment is improperly installed.
- Lack of equipment safety features. Backup alarms, horns, convex mirrors, seat belts, rear-mounted backup sensors, and other equipment safety features are designed to alert workers on foot about moving machinery nearby. Machine guards are critical to preventing workers from getting caught or sucked into the moving parts of factory machinery. When manufacturers or dealers fail to install these basic safety features, workers are more likely to suffer injury from forklift prongs or get crushed by vehicles backing up or turning.
- Lack of rollover protection systems (ROPS). A ROPS consists of a metal cage, seat belts, and seats designed to protect mobile equipment operators from getting crushed in the event of a tip over. Manufacturers or dealers are responsible for installing ROPS on equipment that is at risk of tipping over.
- Poorly maintained equipment. Even when safety features are present on heavy machinery, they may be rendered useless if not properly maintained. Employers are responsible for performing routine inspection and maintenance on all heavy machinery.
- Neglecting lockout/tagout procedures. Lockout/tagout protocols ensure that moving parts of machinery are locked in a set position when not in use. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has strict guidelines for lockout/tagout procedures for de-energizing equipment when employees are required to place a body part in an area of the machine where work is performed on the material being processed. Employers are required to train workers on these procedures.
- Choosing the wrong machine for the job. Well-maintained equipment can be dangerous to workers if the machinery is used for a purpose for which it was not intended. Examples include using forklifts to lift workers up to perform tasks at heights and using machinery to lift loads that are heavier or larger than capacity limits. Employers are responsible for providing the right equipment for the job and training workers on proper use of that equipment.
OSHA provides guidelines that set forth the practices and procedures needed to maintain a safe workplace. Many accidents can be prevented simply by following OSHA guidelines. More accidents can be prevented if manufacturers and dealers install basic safety features.
What Injuries are Caused by Heavy Machinery?
Accidents happen when manufacturers, dealers, or employers (while employees might bear some fault, we don’t want to discourage injured parties from calling us b/c they think they bear some responsibility. That’s up to us to determine) neglect their duty of care. Heavy machinery accidents often result in serious or fatal injuries, which include but are not limited to the following:
- Back sprains
- Broken bones and fractures
- Blunt force trauma to the chest
- Burns, scarring, and disfigurement
- Herniated disks
- Heart attacks from blood loss
- Soft tissue damage
- Spinal cord damage
- Traumatic brain injury
Injuries from heavy machinery accidents are often costly, resulting in multiple hospitalizations, lengthy time off from work, and in some cases, disability that prevents an injured employee from returning to work. For these reasons, injured workers should seek professional counsel from an experienced Workers’ Compensation lawyer to fully explore all options for obtaining recovery to pay for expenses and other damages.
Workers’ Compensation Benefits and Third-Party Claims
Employees in New Jersey and Pennsylvania may file for Workers’ Compensation benefits to pay for medical bills and wages lost because of injuries sustained at work. Workers must follow specific procedures in filing a claim to preserve their eligibility for benefits. Workers’ Compensation shields employers from liability, however, there are many instances in which a third party may be held liable for causing a heavy machinery accident. Examples of negligent third parties include the following:
- Property owner. The owner of a project site is responsible for maintaining a safe work area, and there are instances in which the employer is not the project site owner.
- General contractor. A worker may be employed by someone other than the general contractor.
- Manufacturer or dealer. The company that manufactured or sold the equipment is responsible for delivering safe and effective products.
- Equipment inspector or Repair person. The person or companies who inspected or repaired machines may be responsible for accidents if their inspections or repairs are at fault. (you can probably better word)
If these or any other third parties are found to be negligent, the injured worker has a right to file a third-party personal injury claim.
What Results has Galfand Berger LLP Obtained for Workers Injured in Heavy Machinery Accidents?
In addition to assisting injured employees navigating the process of filing for Workers’ Compensation, Galfand Berger LLP has extensive experience handling third-party claims. Several cases we have successfully settled for workers include the following:
- A defective casting machine accident caused serious burns to workers, one of whom died because of the accident.
- A maintenance worker suffered multiple fractures after falling from a crane that was defectively designed and assembled because it lacked a proper crossover walkway.
- A quarry miner suffered severe chest and arm injuries after being struck by a defective swinging crane.
- Other instances include workers who suffered serious hand injuries when attempting to unclog various types of machines.
Philadelphia Workers’ Compensation Lawyers at Galfand Berger LLP Assist Workers Injured in Heavy Machinery Accidents
Each year, incidents involving heavy equipment cause devastating injuries to operators, as well as coworkers nearby. Many times, injured employees are unable to return to their previous line of work. The Philadelphia Workers’ Compensation lawyers at Galfand Berger LLP have investigated hundreds of occupational accidents over the years. To schedule a free consultation, call us today at 800-222-8792 or contact us online. From our offices in Philadelphia, Bethlehem, Lancaster, and Reading, Pennsylvania, we proudly serve clients throughout Pennsylvania and New Jersey, including Allentown and Harrisburg.