When you are employed in the construction, logistics, or manufacturing industries, working with heavy machinery and equipment is usually a requirement to perform the job. Therefore, workers who are tasked with operating machines, as well as their employers and supervisors, should always take precautions to ensure the workplace is safe.
However, in some cases, this may not be possible. Safety malfunctions may occur even when workers are doing their job the way it is expected to be completed. Workers following safety protocols may experience a malfunction that causes an injury that ranges from minor to severe and life-threatening.
Each state has a form of workers’ compensation to help with the financial difficulties that may occur when an accident happens on the job. In addition, some workers who experience safety malfunction injuries may be entitled to additional compensation in some cases. It’s important to understand your options as you move forward.
What Does Worker’s Comp Do?
Before delving into the injuries caused by safety malfunctions, it’s essential to review workers’ comp and how it factors into injuries in the workplace. Between 1911 and 1948, all states in the US passed various forms of legislation regarding workers’ compensation.
The purpose of the legislation was to ensure that workers injured on the job received assistance, such as coverage of medical bills and lost wages. This legislation applies to all workplace injuries, whether the company or the worker is deemed at fault for the event that caused the accident or the accident itself.
In many cases, employees who have been injured due to safety malfunctions (and other accidents) are not permitted to sue their employers. Worker’s compensation fills in the gap by providing needed benefits to any worker who has experienced an injury while at work.
However, some injured workers will be in a position to file a civil suit against a third party, excluding coworkers, if the person’s negligence is what caused the accident which led to the injury. If a third-party claim is filed, this provides the opportunity for additional compensation beyond the worker’s comp claim.
Employer and Worker Responsibilities to Avoid Safety Shutoff Malfunctions
One of the most essential responsibilities of an employer is to ensure that workers have a safe environment to operate in. This includes all aspects of the workplace, including but not limited to ensuring that all machinery is working correctly. It also encompasses guaranteeing that required repairs are made as quickly as possible.
On the side of the workers, each is required to have appropriate training. The employer must provide them with sufficient training to use the machinery safely. Part of the training employers must give them is the knowledge needed to follow all existing safety protocols.
Equipment and Machinery Have Built-In Protections
Almost every piece of equipment or heavy machinery a worker would encounter on the job has a great deal of safety “built-in” to it already. Things such as guards, release valves, and shutoff switches or valves are included in the design of equipment and machinery in order for workers to prevent injuries when accidents happen. But sometimes, even these safety features can fail causing an already serious accident to become worse, causing injuries and even death in the process.
Who Carries the Liability for Faulty Equipment?
Every worker has the right to do their job in a workplace that is safe and free of the potential for unnecessary accidents and injuries. Each employer has the responsibility to ensure that workers are safe. It is also their responsibility to ensure that the work environment is secure and will not cause injuries to those who work there.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has several safety regulations and rules that cover equipment and machinery. The rules go over machine guarding, types of guarding, general guarding requirements, point of operation guarding, exposure of blades, anchoring fixed machinery, and drums, containers, and barrels.
The employer at any work location that contains machinery or heavy equipment is required to ensure that all regulations are followed and recommended guidelines are adhered to. This includes maintaining and inspecting the equipment properly. In addition, it’s necessary to keep logs of equipment issues and maintenance schedules.
Types of Heavy Machinery Accidents
When equipment is not properly inspected and maintained or repairs are not made when they are needed, it can lead to accidents for employees. Several different accidents can occur, which may lead to injury or death. One of the most common is being pinned by one or more machinery components.
Another common accident that falls under this purview is being crushed or otherwise injured between vehicles as they back up. In some locations, such as construction sites, falling when getting on or off of machinery can also lead to severe injuries that fall under workers’ comp and may qualify you for a third-party claim.
These are all common, but they aren’t the only means that workers can be injured through safety shutoff malfunctions. For instance, being struck by a heavy piece of machinery, being pinned by a portion of a machine, or being crushed under a collapsing building all qualify as these types of injuries in many cases.
When it comes to unguarded machinery, employees run the risk of slipping or falling into the machinery, which can lead to severe injury or death. The level of injury can vary, but it’s not uncommon for it to include crushing injuries, amputations, or other gruesome injuries.
Injuries Caused by Heavy Machinery Accidents
The reality is that even when a worker is doing everything right in terms of safety, machines may fail to work correctly. Defective machines can cause injuries even when nobody has done anything wrong. Whether related to a freak accident or a lack of safety protocols being followed, the following injuries may occur:
- Broken bones
- Cuts and lacerations
- Crushed fingers, hands, or limbs
- Electrical burns
- Internal hemorrhaging
- Organ damage
- Permanent nerve damage
- Wrongful death
What to Do if You Are Injured by Heavy Machinery
Injuries caused by heavy machinery can be severe and lead to costly medical bills and loss of income. The financial impact can quickly add up if you cannot return to work for an extended period. With workers’ compensation benefits, you will be provided the following:
- Disability benefits
- Lost wages
- Medical expenses
- Rehabilitation expenses
However, if a malfunctioning machine caused the injury, you may be able to file a third-party lawsuit against the product manufacturer. The following financial gains may come from the lawsuit:
- Future medical bills
- Loss of consortium
- Loss of enjoyment of life
- Lost wages
- Medical bills
- Pain and suffering
Injured workers may be entitled to extra benefits if they are scarred or disfigured, especially if related to the hands, face, or neck. The same applies if the injury causes workers to lose one of their bodily functions. This includes things like paralysis, blindness, or the loss of a limb. Compensation amounts vary based on the specific situation and how severe and debilitating the injury is.
Have You Been Injured Due to Safety Malfunctions in the Workplace?
This article provides informational details only. It is intended to provide you with a primer on a few of the things to consider regarding a workplace injury related to safety malfunctions in machinery or equipment. It’s essential to be aware of your options if you or someone you care about has experienced an injury like this.
If you believe that third-party negligence has played into an injury in the workplace, it’s often a good idea to speak with a legal team that is experienced in the field. Choose an attorney with a track record of success winning third-party claims like yours.