Working with Machinery is Risky Business
Machinery — indeed, anything with moving parts — can cause any number of accidents, even death, in the workplace. Workers in any field that uses heavy machinery — construction, warehousing, manufacturing and many more — are at risk for serious accidents with that machinery. The federal government estimates that three million U.S. workers are at risk for machinery accidents when they clean, maintain, repair or unjam equipment.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics indicates that, in 2013, 503 workers were killed in encounters with machinery.
Very often, the injury a worker sustains in a machinery accident is the loss of a limb, which is not only physically crippling, but also limits the victim’s future employment prospects and may attract discrimination or stares.
Dangerous Machinery is Everywhere
The varieties of machinery that can cause injury or death are almost limitless. Note that any equipment or machinery that has moving parts can cause injury.
In construction, one of the most dangerous occupations for a worker, the following kinds of heavy machinery have been known to cause injury and death:
- Cranes and bucket trucks
- Wheel loaders
In factories, warehouses, manufacturing facilities, refineries, or machine shops, commonly-used hazardous machinery includes:
- Fork lifts and lift trucks
- Drill presses
- Hoist systems
- Chemical storage vessels
- Blenders and mixers
- Compression equipment
- Packaging machines
- Conveyor belts.
And it’s not just working with machinery itself that can be hazardous. Defective, improperly-maintained, or poorly-designed machinery can be responsible for a worker’s injury or death as well. Machinery can fail or have design defects that resulting in serious worker disability. Workers who are caught in situations involving machinery defects may suffer crushing injuries, severe burns, amputations, impact injuries such as traumatic brain injury, and blindness.
Common Kinds of Machinery Injuries
Construction sites, manufacturing plants, and other industrial areas can be high-pressure, even chaotic, with lots of noise and snap decisions. When you add machinery into the mix, many kinds of disabling, permanent injuries or even death can occur.
In construction work, injuries are often from heavy equipment, and may involve the following:
- Operator falls from the machinery cab
- Crushing injuries from machinery that runs a person over or topples over onto others
- Electrical shock and burns or electrocution, from machinery contacting power lines
- Welding burns
- Impact injuries from swinging machinery arms or buckets, causing broken bones and traumatic brain injury.
In manufacturing and heavy industry, the injuries from machinery are much the same as in construction and can include:
- Amputations from getting caught by a machine, or from an explosion
- Crushing injuries from any number of machine varieties
- Burns from electrical shock or from boilers
- Impact injuries, causing broken bones and traumatic brain injury
- Blindness or hearing loss from explosions and burns.
Machinery Accidents in South Carolina
In 2013, a Piedmont man died in Williamston, South Carolina, after falling into a metal stamping machine. This is the same shop where a worker died in a 2007 fall. And in 2014, a man died after becoming entrapped by machinery at a Newberry plant.
What Can You Do to Stay Safe?
Working around machinery in construction or manufacturing will probably always remain hazardous. But there are a few things you can do to reduce your chances of injury:
- Wear your protective gear at all times.
- Respect any safeguards in place that are meant to prevent dangerous contact between you and the machinery.
- Stay focused, alert and aware of your surroundings.
- Keep your workspace clear of clutter.
- Don’t horse around while operating machinery.
- Never mix alcohol or drugs with operating machinery.
Protections Are Mandated by Law
State and federal laws require employers to maintain safe and hazard-free workplaces. Employers must provide safety equipment, ensure that machinery is working correctly, clear the work site of hazards and make and enforce safety procedures and rules. When machinery is being serviced, workers should follow lockout / tagout procedures that help avoid preventable, horrifying accidents. Certain machinery should be used only by workers over 18 or workers with special credentials. Unfortunately, not all employers are willing to follow those laws when they can save money by ignoring them. If workers are seriously injured as a result, they have the right to hold the employer legally liable for their injuries.
Securing Justice for Hardworking People and Families Since 1959
Machinery accidents can be complex. Employers, manufacturers, subcontractors, employees and others may all share part of the blame. An injured worker may be able to collect workers’ compensation payments, limiting — but not removing — the possibility of a lawsuit.
For these reasons, it’s important to contact the Louthian Law Firm as soon as you begin to consider a lawsuit. We have practiced personal injury law in South Carolina for over 55 years and have won significant damages for seriously injured victims of machinery accidents, on-the-job injuries, construction accidents and other injuries. And because we know injured workers’ wallets are often stretched thin, we always offer free, confidential consultations to potential clients. To speak with an experienced attorney today, call us toll-free at (803) 454-1200, or fill out our convenient online case evaluation form.