What are the Hazards of Accidental Machine Startup?
April 12, 2021
Workers in manufacturing and food production are often called on to adjust heavy machinery that gets clogged or jammed. Safety protocols typically require machinery to be shut down and isolated from energy sources during maintenance. The hazards of accidental machine startup during maintenance activities include amputation, crushed fingers or limbs, electrocution, and other serious injuries. Tragically, some employers violate safety standards for the sake of convenience and saving money. And, too often, manufacturers, designers and distributors produce machinery without appropriate safety features. As a result, workplace accidents they could have easily prevented, continue to happen. An experienced products liability lawyer can help workers recover after suffering injuries caused by accidental machine startup.
What are the Most Frequent Causes of Accidental Machine Startup?
Two of the most frequent causes of accidental machine startup are a lack of machine guards and a failure to implement lockout/tagout procedures. Victims of these accidents may not only have a workers’ compensation claim against their employers but also a third party claim against manufacturers, designers, distributors or maintenance companies responsible for producing and maintaining workplace machinery. Employers also face the prospect of heavy fines by Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).
What are Machine Guards?
Machine guards are devices that act as a physical barrier between workers and various parts of a machine, including the point of operation; feed mechanisms; and the power transmission apparatus, such as gears, pulleys, and conveyor belts. There are various types of machine guards; however, fixed interlocked guards generally provide the best injury protection because of their ability to automatically disengage or shut off the moving parts of a machine. Using fixed interlocked guards to safeguard equipment is essential in preventing workplace injuries.
What is Lockout/Tagout?
Lockout/tagout isolates energy during maintenance and repairs to ensure that a machine is completely shut down before workers perform any type of maintenance. Lockout/tagout procedures involve the installation of devices that are designed to protect workers from hazardous energy releases. Examples of such devices include but are not limited to the following:
- Electrical safety interlock switches. These devices monitor the position of a guard or gate and shut off power by sending an electrical signal to the machine control system to prevent injury when a worker’s hand touches the gate.
- Mechanical interlock system. These devices use mechanical means such as cam shafts that rotate in and out of position to physically block operation of controls.
- Hardwired interlock. This is a physical switch such as an Emergency Stop Button that is installed where a worker can press it to shut down a machine.
Implementing an effective lockout/tagout process also requires training workers on the proper use of these devices. Workers who are called on to fix jams in machines or make repairs can be seriously hurt if a machine accidentally starts up because hazardous energy is not properly controlled.
How Many Workers Risk Injury Because of Accidental Machine Startup?
According to OSHA, at least three million workers who service equipment risk injury from accidental machine startup. The injuries that result from accidental machine startup are often serious, including but not limited to the following:
- Soft tissue injuries
It can take a significant amount of time to fully recover from these types of injuries. On average, workers injured by accidental machine startup lose 24 workdays for recuperation, although complete recovery may take much longer.
On a positive note, OSHA estimates that employers who comply with lockout/ tagout standards prevent an estimated 120 fatalities and 50,000 injuries each year.
How Do Workers Recover Full Damages from Injuries Caused by Accidental Machine Startup?
Workers may recover full damages from injuries caused by accidental machine startup by filing a third-party personal injury claim against entities other than the employer who may be found negligent. Examples of negligent third parties include manufacturers of defective equipment and property owners who allowed a dangerous condition to exist in the work area.
Making a claim against a third party responsible for the accident does not affect a person’Workers who are injured on the job may be eligible for Workers’ Compensation benefits to cover medical bills and lost wages. However, these benefits may not fully compensate for pain and suffering as well as future lost income potential.s Workers’ Compensation claim. When the negligent party is a manufacturer of defective or unsafe equipment, the case is known as a products liability claim. This type of lawsuit permits full and fair compensation for severe injuries while sending a message to manufacturers to stop putting profits ahead of safety.
How Has Galfand Berger LLP Helped Injured Workers File Products Liability Lawsuits?
The legal team at Galfand Berger LLP has helped numerous injured workers file products liability lawsuits against manufacturers of unsafe machinery by investigating the circumstances of the accidents and determining the available safety features that could have prevented the injury, had they been properly implemented. Examples of products liability cases handled by Galfand Berger LLP on behalf of injured workers include the following:
- Worker sustains severe injuries to his left forearm and hand resulting in amputation of his hand. The worker was attempting to clear a paper jam in a paper shredder machine when another worker put the machine in reverse. The worker’s glove, hand, and forearm were pulled into the machine. The legal team at Galfand Berger LLP built a solid case against both the machine’s manufacturer and the used equipment seller by demonstrating that the machine was unsafe as originally sold and resold because it lacked a guard attachment that would have prevented this terrible accident. The worker obtained a settlement of $2.5 million.
- I would use higher recovery cases (our hand injury recoveries have many higher value & relevant cases):
Technology to protect workers from unguarded moving parts has been available for many years. Despite this fact, accidental machine injuries continue to hurt workers.
Philadelphia Products Liability Lawyers at Galfand Berger LLP Champion the Rights of Workers Injured by Accidental Machine Startup
Machine suppliers who fail to sell safeguarded machinery may be held liable for injuries resulting from accidents caused by their defective products. The Philadelphia products liability lawyers at Galfand Berger LLP have championed the rights of workers injured by accidental machine startup and other causes for many years. Our team shares the singular goal of securing justice for those who are hurt through no fault of their own. If you have been injured at work, we would like to speak with you today. To schedule a free and confidential consultation, call us at 800-222-USWA (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.