Amputation injuries in the U.S. have been on the rise over the past decade, as numerous veterans returning from wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are survivors who have lost limbs in the course of their service.
But our Alabama personal injury lawyers know that veterans aren’t the only ones who have been at high risk. Those involved in certain types of motor vehicle accidents (particularly motorcycle wrecks) have had to endure such injury, as have those who have suffered on-the-job injuries – particularly in fields that require the routine use of industrialized, mechanical equipment.
For example, recently in Missouri a glass manufacturing firm was cited by inspectors with the U.S. Occupational Safety & Health Administration after an employee suffered a finger amputation while repairing a machine. Investigators would later learn that the incident stemmed from the employer’s failure to shut off power to certain energy sources before the maintenance was initiated. OSHA called the oversight “unacceptable,” and fined the firm $137,000.
An Ohio woodworking manufacturer was also recently fined $50,000 for its repeated failure to use energy control procedures on foam cutting machines used to produce wood furniture, putting workers at risk for amputations.
And then there was a demolition project in California recently that went horribly awry when pieces of metal and debris struck a nearby worker, severing one leg and causing serious injury to the other.
The U.S. Amputee Coalition estimates that there are 185,000 amputations performed in the country annually, with about 45 percent of those performed due to trauma. More than three-fourths of those are on males.
OSHA reports that work-related amputations are among the most serious and debilitating injuries, and they involve a wide range of activities and equipment. Most frequently, the agency indicates, amputations occur when workers are operating machinery that is inadequately safeguarded or while the worker is not properly guarded. Both of these are employer oversights.
Some of the most dangerous equipment, with known associations with amputations, include:
Trash compactors, hand tools, doors and forklifts have also been associated with amputation injuries.
OSHA has a number of standards, as spelled out in Title 20 of the Code of Federal Regulations, which are intended to shield workers from the risk of amputations. Employers have a responsibility to adhere to these guidelines, as well as recognize, identify, manage and control other amputation hazards that may arise.
Workers should be properly trained and guarded. Also, employees should be assured plenty of time for breaks and rest, particularly when they are operating heavy machinery. Drowsiness and fatigue can inevitably lead to a higher risk of amputation.
In addition to workers’ compensation claims, accident victims may also be entitled to injury damages from his or her employer.
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