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The Risk of Being Crushed in Massachusetts Manufacturing

Recently, the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration issued findings that workers at a Massachusetts manufacturing plant risked being crushed in machinery, or caught inside it. The company makes coated fabrics and adhesives for the health care industry. $93,200 were proposed in fines for serious and repeat violations.

OSHA’s inspection found that the company had not properly trained workers to use lockout/tagout procedures that would protect those workers who performed maintenance on manufacturing machines. The lack of these procedures made the machines’ moving parts dangerous. A machine can sometimes turn on while it is being maintained or serviced. OSHA cited the company for similar hazards in 2010 and it received 2 repeat violations that resulted in $65,000 in fines.

Workers at the company were exposed to serious dangers from damaged steel storage racks and an unmarked crane lift, machinery that wasn’t guarded, an exit that was obstructed and a defective power cord. These conditions gave rise to citations for seven serious violations and fines of $26,200. The company was also cited for 2 non-serious violations with fines of $2000 as well as failure to properly record injuries. While failing to record injuries may not seem serious it can result in lost workdays. OSHA also conducted an inspection that focused on facilities that have more injuries and fatalities than the average.

The company has 15 days to either comply with the penalties or challenge the findings. With repeat violations, an employer has previously received a citation for the same or a similar rule violation. With serious violations, there is a substantial probability of serious physical injury or death.

What are “lockout/tagout” procedures? These are procedures to disable machinery and prevent machine-related injuries when workers are exposed to an unanticipated rush of stored energy and equipment starts up without warning. Failure to control the rush of energy accounts for nearly 10% of serious injuries in a number of industries. The OSHA standard for the control of hazardous energy is 29 CFR 1910.147.

Employers are also required to train every worker to ensure they know, understand and can follow the appropriate provisions for the nature of energy that is found in his or her specific workplace. In many cases it will be important to have employees repeat their training at regular intervals to keep them proficient in case they are faced with these problems or to deal with new machinery or methods. Workers can suffer fractures, amputations or even death if these procedures are not in place.

Between 1982-2006, NIOSH investigated 185 deaths connected to installation, maintenance, service or repair tasks. A failure to dissipate, de-energize, or block the energy source was a factor in 142 of the events. In more than half of 348 investigated cases, lockout procedures were not tried at all.

In addition to the rush of energy from starting up, the necessary procedures will apply when workers must remove or bypass safety devices, when workers put some part of their their bodies into hazardous areas and during setup activities.

If you are hurt at work, you may be entitled to workers’ compensation benefits. An experienced Massachusetts workers’ compensation attorney can evaluate whether you have a sound claim and fight to make sure that your employer and its insurer follow the rules or give you guidance if there is no insurance available. Contact us by calling 800-367-0871 or using our online contact form.

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