Work Environments & Machinery
Most factories, warehouses and industrial environments would use dangerous machinery on a daily basis. While it is a responsibility of the employer to ensure a safe working environment, adequate training and appropriate safety gear for all staff working with dangerous machinery, responsibility also rests with the employee to ensure that they act in accordance to their safety training.
Manufacturers of these dangerous machines have a duty of care to their customers to ensure that they are providing working machinery which is not defective in any way. This is not always the case and sometimes it can be manufacturing defects which cause accidents at work.
There are a number of different ways in which these machine accidents can be prevented. This includes carrying out frequent risk assessments, providing correct training to all staff and providing the correct personal protective equipment (PPE). If an employer is found to be in breach of these actions the employer may be liable for the injury sustained.
Common Injuries Caused by Dangerous Machinery
Eye injuries can be caused by dislodged parts or items flying from the machinery. This can lead to long-term injuries which may result in vision impairment.
Machine Entanglement Leading to Crush Injuries
If you were to get clothing or a body part caught in machinery with moving parts, this can lead to crush injuries or in some cases degloving – this is where the skin becomes removed from the underlying tissue, in these cases blood supply may also be cut off in the injured area.
Cuts and Lacerations
Cuts and lacerations can be caused by getting caught in machinery or coming in contact with any sharp edges which are not protected properly.
Nerve damage can be caused by becoming entangled in the machine and can be an effect of Degloving also.
Inhaling dangerous fumes from machinery used in the workplace can lead to lung disease. The fumes can come from any piece of machinery in the workplace and inhaling large amounts can cause damage to your system.
Other injuries caused by working with dangerous machinery include:
Machine-related injury can generally be categories into three groups:
Lack of Training / Inadequate Training
In some instances, an employer may be worried about the production line and how fast its moving, rather than the risks involved in operating some types of machinery, this may lead to situations where an employer will have staff hit the ground running without adequate training. Staff find themselves using a machine incorrectly because they don’t know any different and this could lead to an injury. It may seem as though the employee is not following the safety regulations, but in actual fact, they simply weren’t shown how to use the machine properly, which led to their accident.
Faulty Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) / Lack of PPE
Each machine comes with its own potential risks and the injuries that can be sustained also vary from machine to machine, this is why the employer must provide staff with the correct and adequate PPE for the particular machine they are using. This could be either, safety goggles, fireproof clothing, hard hat / other protective headgear, heavy-duty boots and gloves (well-fitted gloves), for example. Using one of the above or combinations of both may be needed depending on the machine.
The machine may be faulty on arrival or become faulty over time. Poorly maintained machinery can be very dangerous also. Machinery that is not periodically checked, that is not rechecked after repairs, broken machinery and/or machinery with missing or defective parts, are all seen as faulty and may lead to an accident.
According to the HSA and in their most recent figures (2010 – 2019), in addition to injuries sustained by machinery, machine-related accidents have also been responsible for the following fatal accidents:
- 5% – Falls from Machinery
- 8% – Caught in Machine Mechanisms
- 5% – Impact
- 46% – Struck by Part of a Machine
- 36% – Crushed by Machine Part (42%)
Preventing Machinery Accidents
Prevention of risks that may lead to machine accidents, should be a number one concern for employers whose staff are working with dangerous machinery. Some of the things employers can do, as recommended by the HSA are:
- Suitable guards must be fitted to machinery and equipment.
- Always use wooden blocks or axle stands to support elevated machinery. Do not use a jack as jacks are designed for lifting, not supporting.
- Tools should be in good working order and suitable for use.
- Safety devices should always be in place.
- During maintenance or repair, hydraulic equipment should always be propped up using adequate equipment – a jack stand, for example.
- Before attempting to remove any blockage in the machine, all moving parts must be stopped.
- Machines designed for one person should never take passengers.
- Ensure that equipment is operating in the correct position, failure to do so may leave you in a ‘trap zone’.
- Wearing correctly fitted overalls with zipped pockets and safety boots should be worn when working with dangerous machinery. Loose fitting or torn clothing should not be worn near machinery.
Defective Work Equipment
A person has an expectation that the equipment in their workplace is safe to use and is in good working condition. However, at times accidents can be caused by defective working equipment, usually because of:
- Poor maintenance
- Poor inspection of machinery
- Inadequate or lack of personal protective equipment
- The employer did not carry out a full or adequate safety assessment.
Lifting equipment is used to raise, lift and/or temporarily support equipment, usually during repairs or maintenance. When using lifting equipment, there are a number of elements that the operator needs to be aware of:
- Equipment must be checked beforehand to ensure that it is functional.
- On the lifting equipment itself, there must be a clear marking indicating the safe working load of the equipment in tonnes or kilograms. The safe working load should never be exceeded.
- Lifting equipment must be checked by a competent person before its first use and should be regularly re-examined every 6 months to ensure safety.
- It is also important to provide support to lifted objects using wooden blocks – don’t just rely on the support of the jack stand, for example, as they are not designed for support.
Power Take-off Accidents
Power take-off (PTO) is a device that transfers mechanical power from an engine of a machine to another piece of equipment. These are commonly found on vehicles, such as tractors or vehicles of a similar nature, and rotate at a speed of nine times per second, sometimes slower than that. A PTO system may contain elements that are exposed, such as PTO shaft, and if not careful may lead to an accident. Most PTO accidents happen when loose clothing or limbs get entangled into the shaft.
Most PTO accidents occur for the following reasons:
- The operator is wearing loose fitting or ripped clothing.
- Some vehicles, especially older tractor models, may have damaged PTO shields or not contact a PTO at all.
- People with long hair that isn’t tied up. Long hair can get caught into the rotating shaft, causing injury.
- In some cases, when repairs need to be made the vehicle needs to be kept running. In such cases the PTO shaft will also be rotating – in this case, people are exposed to injury if not careful.
According to the HSA, here are some general guideline that should be followed to prevent an accident:
- Ensure machines are in safe operating condition – ensure all safety guards and devices are in place and in perfect working order before use.
- If the machine you are working with is a vehicle and has another piece attached to it, ensure that tailing equipment is attached correctly.
- Always stop the machine and all moving parts before attempting to carry out maintenance work – always turn off PTO where necessary.
- If working underneath a machine, ensure that it is lifted correctly, properly supported before getting in underneath it.
Working Indoors with Machinery
Workshops, factories and other indoor facilities that house dangerous machinery must be kept to a certain standard to avoid accidents:
- Floors must not be slippery and spills must be cleaned up immediately.
- Objects must not be left on floors that might obstruct a person’s path or cause them to trip and fall.
- Only use fireproof materials in an indoor facility.
- Doors must be high enough to allow certain equipment.
- Solid walls are required to support shelving and to act as an anchor for benches
- Good lighting is essential for people to safely do their jobs.
- Temperature is also important, HSA recommends maintaining a minimum temperature of 10 degrees Celsius.
- Workers must wear suitable clothing (safety clothing).
- If using power tools, training is required.
- Ensuring that tires on machinery are inflated to the correct air pressure is important to prevent punctures.
- Regular inspections of machinery are essential for the safety of the workers.
What to do after an accident at work*?
Following an accident at work, there are a number of steps you should follow:
Seek medical attention
Your health is your wealth and should be your first priority. Immediately after an accident at work, take a second to assess yourself to determine if you have any injuries and seek the relevant medical attention. If you have sustained a serious injury ensure that you contact an ambulance to attend the scene.
For minor injuries, you must remember that minor injuries where you ‘feel fine’ could progress to more serious injuries in the future. In this case it is always better to be safe than sorry and advisable that you go to your nearest accident and emergency (A&E) or local GP to be checked out.
Report the accident
It is critical to report the accident to your superior, i.e. a supervisor or manager on site. It doesn’t matter how small you think the accident may be. By law, accidents at work are required to be reported if the person is injured and can’t perform their daily work tasks for more than three days. Make sure to fill out an Accident Report Form. This can be used for reference in any medical examination and will also prevent any similar accidents from happening in the future.
Identify any witnesses
If possible, try to collect the contact details of anybody that witnessed your accident. This may be of use if you do decide to pursue a workplace accident claim. It is also useful to find out if there is any CCTV in the area where your accident happened.
Document the incident
It is important that you collect all the relevant information in connection with your accident:
- How the accident happened
- Details of any witnesses
- If there are any CCTV recordings of your accident
- Take pictures of where the accident happened and what caused your accident
Speak to a workplace accident solicitor
If you are considering moving forward with a workplace accident claim for any personal injuries sustained, it is advisable that you speak with a workplace accident claims solicitor as soon as possible. If you are proceeding with a claim, the first step will be submitting your claim to the Personal Injuries Assessment Board (PIAB) for assessment. A workplace accident solicitor can help you in preparing your application to the Personal Injuries Assessment Board (PIAB) and ensure that you follow the process in the correct format, meaning that you can move forward with your claim quickly without unnecessary delays.
It is important to remember to keep copies of any expenses that you have incurred as a result of the accident. It is also imperative to retain copies of medical reports or incident report forms where possible as you will need them when making a claim.