It is without saying or even a lot of thought that defective or unguarded machinery often causes severe injuries or even amputations of fingers or limbs.
OH&S states thousands of employees experience the loss of body parts – from fingers to feet – from being caught, crushed or compressed between objects in the workplace. Before companies implement safeguards for workers to prevent amputations, they may want to assess which activities or machines may put staff at greater risk for amputation. Amputations may occur if machinery like mechanical power presses or food slicers are unguarded or not safeguarded, according to OH&S agencies. Employees performing work with table or portable saws or shears also may be at risk for amputation.
In the United States, OSHA has launched an enforcement initiative to emphasize the prevention of amputation hazards among workers in Arkansas, Louisiana, Oklahoma and Texas, the agency announced Nov. 1 2016.
Each year, amputations cause more than 1,400 serious injuries, according to OSHA. In 2015, the agency received reports of more than 2,600 amputations nationwide, with 57 percent occurring among manufacturing workers. Typically, workers are operating machines without proper or adequate safety guards when an amputation occurs.
These horrible injuries result from the use and care of machines such as saws, presses, conveyors, and bending, rolling or shaping machines as well as from powered and non-powered hand tools, forklifts, doors, and trash compactors. Amputations also occur during materials handling activities.
To prevent employee amputations, OH&S through out North America state that you and your employees must first recognize contributing factors—for example, the hazardous energy associated with machinery and the specific employee activities performed with the mechanical operation.
Employers can take various steps to prevent injuries caused defective tools and machinery . Identifying any inherent energy hazards associated with the machinery is important. In addition, reviewing employee activities that coincide with machine operation is one way to anticipate dangers and remedy the situation before an employee is injured.
Hazardous Mechanical Components
Three types of mechanical components present amputation hazards:
Point of operation is the area of the machine where the machine performs work (i.e., mechanical actions that occur at the point of operation, such as cutting, shaping, boring, and forming).
Power-transmission apparatus includes all components of the mechanical system that transmit energy, such as flywheels, pulleys, belts, chains, couplings, connecting rods, spindles, cams, and gears.
Other moving parts that move while the machine is operating, such as reciprocating, rotating, and transverse moving parts as well as lead mechanisms and auxiliary parts of the machine can also be dangerous.
Hazardous Mechanical Motions
A wide variety of mechanical motion is potentially hazardous. For example:
Rotating—Circular motion such as action generated by rotating collars, couplings, cams, clutches, flywheels, shaft ends, and spindles may grip clothing or otherwise force a body part into a dangerous location. Even smooth surfaced rotating machine parts can be hazardous. Projections such as screws or burrs on the rotating part increase the hazard potential.
Reciprocating—Back-and-forth or up-and-down motion may strike or entrap an employee between a moving part and a fixed object.
Transversing—Motion in a straight, continuous line may strike or catch an employee in a pinch or shear point created by the moving part and a fixed object.
Cutting—The action that cuts material and the associated machine motion may be rotating, reciprocating, or transverse.
Punching—This action begins when power causes the machine to hit a slide (ram) to stamp or blank metal or other material. The hazard occurs at the point of operation where the employee typically inserts, holds, or withdraws the stock by hand.
Shearing—This action involves applying power to a slide or knife in order to trim or shear metal or other materials. The hazard occurs at the point of operation where the employee typically inserts, holds, or withdraws the stock by hand.
Bending—With this action, power is applied to a slide to draw or stamp metal or other materials in a bending motion. The hazard occurs at the point of operation where the employee typically inserts, holds, or withdraws the stock by hand.
In-running nip points (also known as “pinch points”)—These hazards develop when two parts move together and at least one moves in rotary or circular motion. In-running nip points occur whenever machine parts move toward each other or when one part moves past a stationary object. Typical nip points include gears, rollers, belt drives, and pulleys.
Employees operating and caring for machinery perform various activities that present potential amputation hazards. For example:
· Machine set-up/threading/preparation
· Machine inspection
· Normal production operations
· Clearing jams
· Machine adjustments
· Cleaning of machine
· Lubricating of machine parts
· Scheduled and unscheduled maintenance
Note that most of these activities involve servicing and/or maintenance, which is when so many amputations occur.
Many tasks present potential amputation risks. Ensuring employees receive adequate training hazards helps avoid injury.
Machine safeguarding is also necessary. There are two machine safeguarding methods. One method is the use of guards, which are barriers that prevent exposure to identified hazards.
Another is using safeguarding devices. These devices detect or prevent inadvertent access to a hazard. They also stop or shut down the machine if any part of the operator’s body comes near a hazardous portion of the machine.
There are also several types of available awareness devices. These devices warn employees of an impending hazard:
- Awareness barriers allow employee access into the hazardous area, but warn employee to remain vigilant.
- Awareness signals use audio or visual alerts to warn employees they are in a hazardous area.
- Awareness signs notify employees of potential hazards and provide instructions and training information.
Performing a hazard analysis also helps prevent amputation risks. A hazard analysis focuses on the relationship between employees, tasks, tools, and environment. It assists with identifying dangers posed by certain machinery.
The results of the analysis are used to develop a plan for machine safeguarding and an overall energy control program. This not only results in fewer amputations and a safer environment, but improves employee production and morale.
After identifying amputation hazards in the workplace, companies may want to establish safety procedures and practices and invest in safety devices like guards to block off hazardous areas or shut off machinery that may cause crushing or compression risks. OH&S standards require businesses to provide machine guarding to control amputation hazards. Employers also may want to familiarize themselves with proper lockout/tagout procedures.