Workers in manufacturing, mining, agriculture, construction, and other industries depend on machinery to complete certain jobs. While this equipment is necessary for certain tasks, the use of heavy machinery comes with inherent risks to workers.
In fact, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration and the Bureau of Labor Statistics estimate that 18,000 injuries and more than 800 fatalities happen every year in this country due to heavy equipment accidents. Learn more about the hazards of working with heavy machinery and what to do if you are injured on the job.
Types of Heavy Machinery
The list of machines and equipment that can cause serious, life-threatening injuries is extensive. Here are the most common:
- Air compressors
- Backhoes, forklifts, front-end loaders, and other vehicles
- Cement pumps and mixers
- Cutting, punching, and shearing equipment
- Drill and hydraulic presses
- Excavators and trenchers
- Pneumatic rollers
- Tube and pipe benders
Workers can be crushed under equipment or structures that collapse. They can be pinned between a moving and a stationary object, as in a case where a vehicle backs up without seeing the worker. This type of accident is especially common because many construction vehicles have large blind spots.
Caught In/Between Heavy Equipment
Some workers get caught in or between moving vehicles or equipment. Their hair, jewelry, or clothing can get snagged in moving parts, causing serious injuries. Heavy equipment can send metal, glass, and other flying debris into the air causing cuts, lacerations, and puncture wounds for nearby workers.
Broken, Damaged, or Defective Equipment
Heavy machinery requires regular inspections, maintenance, and repairs to operate as designed, without undue risk to workers. Machines that are not well-maintained are more likely to operate unpredictably which endangers operators and others working nearby.
Missing Safety Guards or Lockouts
Heavy machinery is equipped with certain safety guards and a system for controlling energy-powered machines when they are not in use or when the are being serviced. This is called “Control of Hazardous Energy” or “Lockout Tagout.”
The goal of lockout tagout programs is to ensure energy is controlled in machines where “energizing, startup or release of stored energy could occur and cause injury.” OSHA requires that employers have a clearly-stated energy control program in place with documented machine- and task-specific lockout and tagout procedures readily available for all employees to view.
Energy isolation points should be clearly marked. Employees should be trained to implement lockout tagout procedures and frequent audits should occur to ensure employees are taking steps to safely control energy every shift and every day.
Lack of Training and Safety Protocols
Employers have a duty to ensure the job site is safe and employees practice proper safety procedures when using heavy machinery. When employee training, protective equipment, or enforcement are lacking, a lax attitude toward safety is created. That permissive workplace culture increases the chance of accidents and injuries.
Heavy Equipment Injuries
Because of the size, force, and energy behind many of these commonly-used tools and equipment, heavy machinery accidents can cause serious and even fatal injuries. Head, neck, and back injuries are not uncommon.
Some workers suffer lacerations, puncture wounds, and amputations. Crushing injuries are possible with larger vehicles and machinery. Many of these injuries result in chronic pain and permanent disability that impacts an injured worker’s ability to earn a living and enjoy a certain quality of life.
Heavy Equipment Injuries and Workers’ Compensation
Workers who are hurt or contract an occupational illness due to job conditions are afforded some financial protection under Pennsylvania Workers’ Compensation law. After reporting a job injury to their employer, the injured worker must file a Workers’ Compensation claim in a timely manner.
If the employer approved the claim, they are entitled to certain benefits for medical bills and lost income. Because the Workers’ Compensation system is complex and can be challenging to navigate, the guidance of a skilled attorney is always advised.
Pottstown Workers’ Compensation Lawyers at Wusinich, Sweeney & Ryan, LLC, Advocate for Injured Workers Across Pennsylvania
If you were hurt or disfigured in a serious heavy machinery accident on the job, our experienced Pottstown Workers’ Compensation lawyers at Wusinich, Sweeney & Ryan can help. To discuss your case or learn more about our firm, call us at 610-594-1600 or contact us online to schedule a free consultation. Based in Exton, we assist clients in and around West Chester, Downingtown, Coatesville, Malvern, Uwchland, Phoenixville, Lyndell, Parkesburg, Chester Springs, Wagontown, Reading, Morgantown, Lancaster County, and all of Pennsylvania.