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How to prevent serious injuries involving stationary power tools

Pennsylvania workers' compensation

Stationary machines and power tools are commonly used in manufacturing, construction, and other industrial sectors. They often include:

  • Bandsaws
  • Table saws
  • Drill presses
  • Bench grinders

Accidents involving stationary power tools and plug-in industrial machinery under 5HP (machines with motors that produce 3730 watts of electricity) are responsible for nearly half of all machine-related injuries each year. In fact, data shows that injuries involving smaller stationary machines are just as prevalent as those involving large industrial machinery, according to ESH Today.

Why are risk assessments involving stationary machines so important in workplaces?

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) requires businesses to use mitigation devices designed to prevent any body part of a worker to be exposed to ingoing nip points, rotating parts, or any other point of operation.

In order to properly assess risks involving stationary equipment, two areas should be scrutinized: any hazards to other nearby workers and time outside of normal operation.

This includes assessing risks that occur prior to operation (such as machine setup) and after operation (cleanup or maintenance). This is when more than half of all machine-related injuries occur, according to EHS Today. Other situations, such as jams, malfunctions, and power loss, should also be factored in.

What are the key hazards using stationary equipment?

EHS Today identified three key hazards involving stationary machinery and how workers and employers can safeguard against them, including:

  • Hazardous energy: In the event of a power outage or other cause of power loss, a machine will cease to operate. However, if the "on" switch is activated, the machine could suddenly start back up when power is restored. Unsuspecting workers could be injured in this case. That's why it's crucial that a machine is shut off, locked-out, and tagged-out when not in operation.
  • Tool coasting: Power tools that aren't being used may still operate in virtual silence for up to two minutes after being shut off. A coasting tool can cause injury to any unsuspecting worker who comes in contact with one. For example, after shutting off a table saw, the blade may still continue to rotate for some time. If a worker attempts to set up a new operation while the blade is in motion, a serious injury can occur. Coasting can be prevented with a mechanical friction brake and proper training.
  • Emergency situations: When emergency situations occur, such as a serious machine malfunction or accident, a bad situation can worsen if workers don't know what to do. In some cases, the emergency switches can be difficult to quickly locate and activate. It's important that operators and other workers are properly trained to quickly locate emergency switches. In addition, this hazard can be mitigated by an emergency stop system added to a machine or workspace.

How serious are injuries from stationary equipment?

Injuries involving stationary machines and power tools often require immediate and lengthy medical treatment. When accidents occur, workers are likely to sustain:

  • Severe lacerations
  • Bone fractures
  • Punctures
  • Nerve damage
  • Amputation or loss of a finger
  • Burns
  • Death

If you have sustained an injury on the job, you may be eligible to receive workers' compensation benefits, which will cover your medical expenses and wage reimbursement while you're in recovery. To learn how to get started, contact Pennsylvania firm Vellner Law, PC and schedule your free consultation with our legal team.

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