Two workers at Oakwood’s Primex Plastics Corp. suffered amputations in two separate incidents less than two weeks apart in February of this year. Both workers had fingers amputated in similar incidents. Apparently no steps were taken to improve safety conditions after the first incident, which OSHA representatives found to be particularly concerning. The company received an OSHA citation in August enumerating 22 safety violations and faces more than $141,000 in fines. Another facility the company owns in New Jersey has been cited for similar violations in recent years.
Amputations are one of the great workplace safety risks in any industrial context—particularly when heavy machinery with moving parts is involved. According to OSHA’s Amputation Fact Sheet, the following types of mechanical motions are most commonly associated with amputation risk:
- Rotating: Circular movement of couplings, cams, clutches, flywheels, and spindles as well as shaft ends and rotating collars that may grip clothing or otherwise force a body part into a dangerous location.
- Reciprocating: Back-and-forth or up-and-down action that may strike or entrap a worker between a moving part and a fixed object.
- Traversing: Movement in a straight, continuous line that may strike or catch a worker in a pinch or shear point created between the moving part and a fixed object.
- Cutting: Action generated during sawing, boring, drilling, milling, slicing, and splitting.
- Punching: Motion resulting when a machine moves a slide (ram) to stamp or blank metal or other material.
- Shearing: Movement of a powered slide or knife during metal trimming or shearing.
- Bending: Action occurring when power is applied to a slide to draw or form metal or other materials.
Amputation risks may be reduced significantly by implementing machinery guards and following lockout/tagout procedures.
Profits and Safety: A Conflict?
According to the OSHA press release, “Worker safety, not profits, must be a company’s priority,” said Bill Fulcher, OSHA’s director of the Atlanta-East Area Office. “Unfortunately, it took two amputations for Primex to address known safety hazards at this facility.”
While it may be rhetorically powerful to invoke worker safety as an opposing value to profits, doing so fails to take into account that failure to provide a safe work environment is in fact a costly error. While some shortsighted companies do try to cut corners by avoiding regulatory compliance costs, the risks incurred can often be far more costly than the money saved. While this company certainly should have done more to prevent injuries—especially after the first incident—it is unlikely that anybody in management is considering their failure to take certain safety measures as a cost-effective decision at this point.
Both in fines and insurance premium increases, the company in this case will certainly pay far more to remedy the harms they allowed to happen than it would have cost for them to invest in prevention.
Contact Atlanta’s Workers’ Compensation Attorneys
If you are injured on the job, you are entitled to workers’ compensation payments. The attorneys at the the Bader Scott Injury Lawyers can provide effective assistance to ensure you obtain a speedy and fair recovery. Call us today for a free case evaluation.