Last month, the U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) charged Massachusetts manufacturer Spincraft, Inc. with 38 safety violations, causing the company to face $175,500 in fines.
The investigation was spurred after a worker suffered serious injuries to the face and eyes after a workplace accident that occurred when the grinding wheel on his portable grinder ruptured and struck him in the face. Post-accident inspections revealed the grinder was set up improperly and not adequately guarded. Further, investigators discovered that the employer failed to take steps to ensure the grinder was operated at a safe speed.
Of the 38 violations uncovered during the investigation, 32 were deemed "serious." Infractions varied and included improper propane storage, failure to properly test and inspect crane equipment, electrical hazards and holes in the floor. According to OSHA officials, the conditions caused Spincraft employees to be at risk of falls, crushing, electric shocks and other serious injuries.
Small Tools Can Be Dangerous, Too
Although the phrase "industrial accident" likely conjures an image of workers injured by large and expansive machinery, this story illustrates the often-forgotten fact that small handheld tools can be just as dangerous. This is especially true if the tools are used incorrectly or are not properly maintained.
According to the Consumer Products Safety Commission, Americans are hospitalized more than 100,000 times each year due to injuries attributed to improper use of hand tools.
Most of these accidents can be avoided if employers and workers simply follow appropriate safety measures. Tools should be serviced regularly, and workers should never be required to use broken or damaged equipment. Further, employers should ensure that workers have access to good-quality protective gear.
Injured Workers Can Bring Third Party Actions
Many Massachusetts workers who are injured on the job can recover workers' compensation benefits. In addition, those workers who are injured by the negligence of someone other than the employer - such as a manufacturer that made a defective tool or an external repair company that didn't properly service a machine - may be able to pursue what is called a "third party action."
In these cases, an injured worker may be able to receive workers' compensation benefits while also pursuing additional compensation from the third party responsible for causing his or her injury.
However, because third party actions are so complex, it's important for the injured worker to consult with an experienced workers' compensation attorney who can help explain the law and preserve evidence.