Amputation Injuries, Workers’ Compensation, and OSHA

Posted on Thursday, November 21st, 2019 at 1:31 pm    

Amputation injuries at work can happen for many reasons such as a vehicle accident, being caught or trapped in machinery or equipment, a fall from a high height. The loss of an arm, leg, hand, foot, finger or toe is life-altering for anyone. Many workers who suffer an amputation need surgery to help limit the physical damage. Victims sometimes suffer pain for the rest of their lives. Many workers who suffer an amputation need psychological counseling and therapy. Most require prosthetics to be able to walk or regain some function in the area of the missing limb. These prosthetics, as well as the supplies that enable them to function properly, entail ongoing costs that the employer and workers compensation insurance carrier will be responsible for. 

According to Amputation Coalition, a doctor supported nonprofit, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) data has found that most “workplace amputations occur because of unguarded machinery, lack of adequate training and appropriate practices and procedures to safeguard employees.” 

Their findings also show that 1 out of every 20,000 workers suffers a workplace amputation. The incidence rate for amputations in certain professions is higher:

  • Manufacturing. 2.1 for every 10,000 workers
  • Construction. 1.4 for every 10,000 workers
  • Agriculture, Forestry, Fishing, and Hunting. 1.4 for every 10,000 workers

Employers should work with OSHA to help implement safety protocols. Regular inspections should be conducted. The following hazards should be reviewed:

  • “Regular operation of the machine
  • Setup/threading/preparation for regular operation of the machine
  • Clearing jams or upset conditions
  • Making running adjustments while the machine is operating
  • Cleaning of the machine
  • Oiling or greasing of the machine or machine pans
  • Scheduled/unscheduled maintenance
  • Locking out or tagging out”

According to OSHA, some of the machines that cause amputations include:

  • “Power presses
  • Power press brakes
  • Powered and non-powered conveyors
  • Printing presses
  • Roll-forming and roll-bending machines
  • Food slicers
  • Meat grinders
  • Meat-cutting band saws
  • Drill presses
  • Milling machine
  • Shears, grinders, and slitters”

Amputations also occur when workers work with forklifts, trash-compactors, and various types of hand tools. 

The injuries can occur during cleaning, lubricating, preparing, threading, and maintaining the machines and equipment.

The following types of mechanical components are considered the most dangerous:

  • “Point of operation – the area of a machine where it performs work on material.
  • Power-transmission apparatuses – flywheels, pulleys, belts, chains, couplings, spindles, cams, and gears in addition to connecting rods and other machine components that transmit energy.
  • Other moving parts – machine components that move during machine operation such as reciprocating, rotating, and transverse moving parts as well as auxiliary machine parts.”

Common dangers that can cause an amputation

While all mechanical motion is considered dangerous, some of the most common hazards include:

  • Rotating – circular movement of couplings, cams, clutches, flywheels, and spindles as well as shaft ends and rotating collars that may grip clothing or otherwise force a body part into a dangerous location.
  • Reciprocating – back-and-forth or up-and down action that may strike or entrap a worker between a moving part and a fixed object.
  • Transversing – movement in a straight, continuous line that may strike or catch a worker in a pinch or shear point created between the moving part and a fixed object.
  • Cutting – action generated during sawing, boring, drilling, milling, slicing, and slitting.
  • Punching – motion resulting when a machine moves a slide (ram) to stamp or blank metal or other material.
  • Shearing – movement of a powered slide or knife during metal trimming or shearing.
  • Bending – action occurring when power is applied to a slide to draw or form metal or other materials.

OSHA regulations

OSHA provides standards that employers should follow to address the danger of amputations at work:

  • 29 CFR Part 1910 Subparts O and P cover machinery and machine guarding
  • 29 CFR 1926 Subpart I covers hand tools and powered tools
  • 29 CFR Part 1928 Subpart D covers agricultural equipment

Other OSHA regulations cover maritime work

Some of the key ways to safeguard machines that OSHA recommends are:

  • “Guards provide physical barriers that prevent access to hazardous areas. They should be secure and strong, and workers should not be able to bypass, remove, or tamper with them. Guards should not obstruct the operator’s view or prevent employees from working.”
  • “Devices help prevent contact with points of operation and may replace or supplement guards. Devices can interrupt the normal cycle of the machine when the operator’s hands are at the point of operation, prevent the operator from reaching into the point of operation, or withdraw the operator’s hands if they approach the point of operation when the machine cycles. They must allow safe lubrication and maintenance and not create hazards or interfere with normal machine operation. In addition, they should be secure, tamper-resistant, and durable.”

New machines should come with safeguards already installed. The employer can also buy safeguards or install them before use.

Workers under 18 are banned from operating certain types of machines due to their inherit dangers. The bans include “operating band saws, circular saws, guillotine shears, punching and shearing machines, meatpacking or meat-processing machines, paper products machines, woodworking machines, metal forming machines, and meat slicers.”

In addition to filing a North Carolina or Virginia workers’ compensation claims, workers have additional rights according to OSHA. The best course of action is to prevent the amputation in the first place. If amputation injuries do occur, then experienced work injury lawyers can help the amputee get all the medical help, wage benefits, and other benefits that law allows.  Our team at the Work Injury Center has represented, and continues to represent several clients with amputation injuries. 

These additional workers’ rights include:

  • The right to work in safe conditions
  • The right to receive “information and training (in a language and vocabulary the worker understands) about workplace hazards, methods to prevent them, and the OSHA standards that apply to their workplace.”
  • The right to review records of prior injuries and illnesses at the workplace.
  • The right to file a complaint with OSHA asking OSHA to inspect the worksite – if they believe the employer isn’t following OSHA rules or isn’t working to make the workplace safe. “OSHA will keep all identities confidential.”
  • The right to “exercise their rights under the law without retaliation, including reporting an injury or raising health and safety concerns with their employer or OSHA. There are time limits for filing a complaint with OSHA if retaliation occurs – not more than 30 days.

Virginia and North Carolina Workers’ Compensation Attorney Joe Miller Esq. knows how traumatic the loss of an arm, leg, or any body part is. For over 30 years, we’ve helped thousands of injured workers get the full compensation they deserve. We work with your doctors and other health care providers to understand whether prosthetics or other medical advances are an option. We fight to get your full wage loss and medical benefits. When appropriate, we also seek payment for disfigurement and loss of function.  To speak with an experienced North Carolina and Virginia workers’ compensation lawyer, call lawyer Joe Miller at 888-694-1671. or fill out my contact form to schedule an appointment.