According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, the prevalence of work-related amputations nationwide, including in North Carolina, is a serious concern. Although other body parts, like hands, feet and toes, sometimes face amputation, nine in every 10 amputations involve fingers. For some, losing only a finger might seem insignificant, but it might prevent you from continuing in your current occupation if you are the victim.
Amputation injuries can happen in various industries. However, if you work in the manufacturing industry, you will face more amputation hazards than those in other workplaces.
The following are common areas that will expose you to amputation injuries:
- Apparatuses that transmit power: This hazard includes all the energy-transmitting machine components. Belts, pulleys, flywheels, chains, connecting rods, gears and cams are some of the apparatuses that pose amputation hazards.
- Operation points: These are the points at which the machine and the material come together. Examples of this risk include the points where drill bits punch holes in sheets of metal, mechanical presses bending metal and razors cutting fabric.
- Other machine parts: Any part of a machine that moves with strong enough force to cut an operator’s flesh and bone could cause amputation injuries. It includes parts like those that rotate, reciprocate or traverse.
Fortunately, there are safeguards and mitigating steps that you and your employer can take to avoid catastrophic amputation injuries.
- Eliminate amputation hazards: Elimination of potential risks is always the best option, but not always practical or feasible.
- Administrative controls: Being able to recognize potential hazards is your first line of protection. Therefore, safety training is essential, and it should include lockout/tagout procedures, which, by the way, employers must enforce at all times.
- Engineering controls: Any process that exposes you to moving machine parts must have safeguards to prevent such contact.
Guarding around all moving parts is mandatory:
- Access to areas with many hazardous, moving machine parts can be limited by using fences or barriers.
- Another option is safety devices activated by movement, which could effectively shut off a machine’s power when you enter a dangerous area.
- Sensors are available that will only allow the machine to work if your hands are safely away from the moving parts.
The following personal precautions can help keep you safe:
- You and your co-workers can take your own precautions by only putting your hands in places where you can see them.
- Regardless of who gives the order, never remove or bypass safety guards on equipment unless following the proper lockout/tagout procedures.
- Do not work while wearing jewelry, loose clothing or anything that can catch on moving parts, which is how many amputation injuries occur.
Unfortunately, despite all the precautions, accidents continue to happen. If you are the victim of an amputation injury, the North Carolina workers’ compensation insurance system will have your back. Benefits typically include medical expenses and lost wages. However, if your injuries cause permanent disability, you will likely receive additional compensation.