The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) recently cited Autoneum North America, a parts supplier for the automotive industry with operations near Toledo, Ohio, for violations of machine safety procedures after investigating an injury that occurred in December 2016. OSHA has proposed fines totaling $569,463.
Auto Insulation Worker Loses Hand in Shredding Machine
Companies are responsible for setting up machinery according to OSHA standards to help prevent accidents and protect workers from injuries. Autoneum allegedly failed to do that.
The company makes automotive insulation and is headquartered in Farmington Hills, Michigan, though it is a subsidiary of Autoneum based in Switzerland. On December 23, 2016, a 43-year-old worker was guiding scrap materials into a shredding machine when his arm became caught in the machine’s point of operation. The shredder had a circular drum for shredding various fabric fibers for reuse. As the worker guided the materials in, his arm got caught. He ended up losing his right hand, wrist, and part of his forearm. When OSHA conducted an investigation, they found that the company failed to equip the machine with the appropriate safety guards. Had they done so, the man never would have been injured.
“This incident illustrates why companies must evaluate machine safety procedures to ensure they are adequate and effective in protecting workers from injuries on the job,” said Dorothy Dougherty, deputy assistant secretary of labor for occupational safety and health.
OSHA cited the company for inadequate machine guarding, failing to properly train workers, exposing workers to struck-by hazards from machine components, and for failing to provide “locking out” equipment. They suggested that the company either use alternate equipment to process scrap material or install a different type of grinder designed for their waste material.
OSHA Provides Safety Standards for Machine Guarding
OSHA provides machine-guarding guidelines that companies are supposed to follow. One or more methods of machine guarding should be provided to protect the operator and other employees from various hazards, including rotating parts, flying chips, and sparks, and hazards created at the point of operation. These guards are supposed to be affixed to the machine where possible, and if not, secured elsewhere.
The guard itself is also supposed to conform to appropriate standards and should be designed to protect the operator from injury to any part of his body. Workers should also have access to special hand tools with which they can place and remove material around danger zones in the machine.
Particularly around the point of operation, which is the area on the machine where the work is performed, guarding devices must prevent the operator from coming close to the danger zone. Companies must also provide eye and face protection, and anchor the machine to prevent “walking” or moving.
“Moving machine parts have the potential to cause severe workplace injuries,” OSHA states, “such as crushed fingers or hands, amputations, burns, or blindness. Safeguards are essential for protecting workers from these preventable injuries.”
Focusing on representing injury victims nationwide in product liability and complex personal injury litigation, Mr. Cohn has litigated a wide-array of cases against numerous manufacturers, employers, landowners, and negligent third-parties—resulting in many multi-million dollar recoveries. In addition to working for nationwide plaintiffs firms in New York, he is also a former Manhattan Assistant District Attorney.