Machinery used in factories, production plants and other industrial settings often have exposed components that can cause serious crush and amputation injuries to workers’ hands and arms. Clothing, hair and gloves can become caught in moving parts of machinery. Fingers and arms can be drawn into the moving parts of machinery as well.
The most common categories of exposed machine hazards are rotating components that can catch clothing and hair, moving parts that create a shear point and in-running nip/pinch points.
These hazard points are supposed to be safeguarded. Both OSHA regulations and generally accepted engineering standards for machine design require that workers be protected from moving parts of industrial machinery. Guards are the first and best protection against injury from pinch points, shear points and rotating machine parts. However, anyone who has seen or worked with real industrial production machinery realize that not all hazard points are properly and affectively guarded. Other times, the guards are designed so poorly that they are easily removed, altered or otherwise defeated by employers whose interests in speeding up production outweighs their interest in protecting their employees.
The result is that workers are required to operate and work around machinery that has exposed moving parts that can snag and draw in clothing and extremities. Very often, the mechanism of injury is not instantaneous -- rather, a worker is drawn into a machine at a relatively slow speed, such that the presence of an effective emergency stop device would eliminate the injury or reduce the severity of the injury. This is a classic example of where emergency stop controls, or “e-stops”, can save life and limb.
An e-stop can take the form of buttons, rope pulls, pressure bars and other devices. They are designed to be used in reaction to a hazardous situation such as a worker’s clothing, hair or gloves getting snagged on moving parts of the machine. When such an emergency occurs, the worker can activate the e-stop and avoid or reduce the severity of the injury.
The e-stop is only as good as the location where it is placed on the machine. E-stops have to be within arm’s reach of each hazard point. Very often, a machine must have multiple e-stop devices if it is large and has multiple hazard points.
E-stops should ordinarily not be placed at the main operating station or control panel only. Injuries very often occur when workers are troubleshooting, clearing jams, etc. This work is frequently done away from the main controls. The e-stops therefore must be located within arm’s reach of where the troubleshooting, jam clearing, etc. will be done, not just where the main operation of the machine will take place.
The designers, manufacturers and assemblers of industrial machines have to anticipate where the hazard points are located and anticipate how the worker will become exposed to the hazards. Stated another way, the designers, manufacturers and assemblers of these machines have to know how the machine will be operated, used, maintained and serviced in the real world. An e-stop that is out of reach of a worker in an emergency situation is worthless.
If you or a loved one has been injured by industrial machinery, you can call Dan O’Brien to discuss the situation and see if you have a case. Dan can be reached toll free at 877-944-8396 or by e-mail at [email protected].