Dangerous machinery in the workplace claims
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All machinery has the potential to be dangerous if used incorrectly or if it’s not been properly maintained by those responsible for its mechanical upkeep, yet some pieces of equipment pose greater threats than others. We are of course referring to the types of heavy industrial machinery, the presence of which forms the backbone of a number of industries here in the UK, ranging from everything from milling and grinding machines to printing guillotines and recycling apparatus.
Essentially the variety of sizeable and weighty apparatus you’d expect to see in constant use in factories, mills, processing plants and garages up and down the country. There’s no escaping the truth that nearly all industrial machinery can be extremely dangerous should it fall into a state of disrepair, or conversely operated without the necessitated training/supervision, whilst threats to an employee’s health and safety are increased if and when they’re not wearing the pre-requisitional personal protective equipment as per HSE compliances typically dictate.
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Whose responsibility is it to ensure that machinery doesn’t become dangerous in the workplace?
The buck tends to stop with employers in this score, as in-keeping with their ‘duty of care’ legal requirements. Indeed, they are routinely relied upon to undertake regular and far-reaching risk assessments on all the machinery and equipment on their premises, whilst their responsibility usually extends to encompass the timely maintenance and full working order of said machinery which is frequented as part and parcel of the business’ nature.
At the same time it’s up to the employer to provide both extensive training and PPE to all members of the workforce who’s remit sees them coming into close and habitual contact with industrial machinery and equipment which can cause injuries.
What types of machinery are more commonly associated with personal injury claims in the workplace?
There are a host of industrial-spec machines, equipment and apparatus which for various reasons explained hereabouts can (and do) cause injuries of varying severity to unsuspecting victims. Here is an outline of just a few of the main offenders as such, yet by no means representative of an exhaustive list:
- Assembly/production line machinery/equipment
- Packaging and labelling machines
- Paper and saw mill equipment/processes
- Machine tools – including, milling, grinding, planer, lathe, shaper, etc…
It’s worth noting that ALL types of machinery facilitated in a workplace surround, from food processing and petro-chemical and recycling plants through to garages, furniture production areas and steel turning workshops present the potential for accidents. Irrespective of the stringent, rigorous and all-enveloping quality control measures and procedures adopted and adhered to with regards to machinery in the workplace, accidents can and will still happen from time to time, as statistics continue to figuratively attest to.
Who is responsible for the routine maintenance and on-going safety of machinery in the workplace?
Again, the employer has the responsibility to ensure all machinery in the workplace is safe. According to the Health and Safety at Work Act of 1974 – and re: workplace responsibilities – the onus is on the employer to ensure that all safeguards are in place and that all machines are used properly and safely. The pivotal points include:
- The undertaking of risk assessments in relation to the machinery and its associated work processes
- Maintaining all machinery regularly
- Affording top priority to necessary repairs
- Ensuring that all staff who will be handling any machine have received the necessary training
- Ensuring that all employees are provided with the relevant protective gear, and that the full gear is always worn when operating any machine
What are the most common causes of machine-related accidents?
Again, there’s not one reason but a raft of explanations cited as to just how and why accidents involving heavy industrial equipment and machinery happen, with the following being a fair and consistent example of the main ones:
- Inadequate training – Employer insistence on getting new members of staff ‘up to speed’ quickly sometimes means that they’re put in charge of machinery after receipt of insufficient or no training; which can in turn pose a real danger as the mishandling of industrial equipment could easily result in serious injuries
- Lack of PPE – Given that all machinery comes with its own unique set of risks (not to mention, potential for injuries of different types), amongst the most effective ways to reduce that latent risk while using any machinery is by wearing the recommended protective gear for that particular equipment. This could include a combination of one (or multiples) of the following; safety goggles, a hard hat, well-fitting gloves, heavy-duty boots and flame-retardant clothing
- Faulty machinery – Badly maintained (or not maintained at all) equipment can be as dangerous to users as machinery which is being operated without the proper safety guards in place, or in cases of the wrong machinery being used to complete a certain job. All of these scenarios come under the purview of ‘faulty machinery’ and all are equally likely to result in injuries
What are the most common injuries caused by operating dangerous machinery?
For the most part hands and fingers tend to be the most prone to industrial machinery-based injuries, although eyes are more susceptible to injury in certain work environments. This observation is best illustrated by those employed in the sheet metal-forging industry, as particles of metal becoming lodged in their eyes (when they haven’t been issued with protective goggles or visors) represent a clear and present threat.
Elsewhere crushing injuries remain a common statistic, symbolised by/when hands (or other limbs) become trapped in moving parts of industrial machinery. In many cases, crushing injures are severe and may require reconstructive surgery. Meanwhile a variety of laceration-type wounds and injuries are also regularly reported in industrial machinery-related accident logs, with amputation one of the more extreme end results of this.
Another example of injuries consistent with the misuse/adventure of industrial equipment is that of ‘de-gloving’; by which we refer to a particularly horrific injury whereby the skin is stripped away from the body, often from the hands and the fingers after coming into close contact with machinery. As you might imagine, many of these are considered life-changing/altering injuries which can affect both the injured party’s quality of life and ability to work/return to employment. Even if a full-recovery is possible, the victim may require an extended amount of time away from their normal workplace. And it goes without saying that in the worst case scenarios, misuse or negligence relating to dangerous machinery can result in fatalities.
To afford you a more detailed analysis of this, take a look at the following descriptions of how moving machinery can quickly trigger otherwise unexpected injuries;
- As touched on above, operatives can be struck and injured by moving parts of machinery (or ejected materials from said machinery). Parts of the body can also be drawn in (or trapped) between rollers, belts and pulley drives
- Sharp edges can cause cuts and severing injuries, while sharp-pointed parts can cause stabbing or puncture wounds to the skin. In addition to this rough surface parts can cause friction or abrasion injuries
- People can be crushed, both between parts moving together or towards a fixed part of the machine, wall or other object, and two parts moving past one another can cause what’s known as shearing
- Parts of the machine, materials and emissions (such as steam or water) can be hot – or cold – enough to cause burns or scalds, and electricity can cause electrical shock and burns
- Injuries can also occur due to machinery becoming unreliable and developing faults or when machines are used improperly through inexperience or lack of training, which we again paid mention to above
At the end of the day responsibility for the provision on personal protective equipment lies with an employer, and they must ensure that the PPE proffered is effective enough to counter potential and inadvertent contact with equipment frequented by employees in that role. If it’s subject to wear and tear, ill-fitting or no longer affords sufficient protection from machinery, then employers are duty-bound to replace the equipment with something more suitable.
How to make a claim
Should you have sustained an injury caused by dangerous machinery in your place of work – and essentially which was proven to have been the fault of/due to a negligent act of an employer, then you could be entitled to make a claim.
However, it must be noted that there are strict time limits in place that affect how long after the accident you will be able to make a claim; ergo it’s vital that you seek legal advice straight away.
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