Our hands are a marvel of the human body, affording us the ability to grasp objects and design tools to construct a modern society. Think of all you do in the course of a day with your hands and now imagine what it would be like to lose a hand or finger(s) in a machine.
As stated on OSHA’s Machine Guarding eTool webpage, “workers who operate and maintain machinery suffer approximately 18,000 amputations, lacerations, crushing injuries, abrasions, and over 800 deaths per year.” Here are just a few of the case histories posted on OSHA’s Safeguarding Equipment and Protecting Workers from Amputations publication.
- An employee was cutting material with a 50-inch guillotine shear equipped with two-hand trip buttons to prevent employees from reaching into the blade area. He had taped up one of the buttons and used his knee to trip the other button. With both hands under the blade, he inadvertently hit the free button with his knee. This activated a stroke of the blade which amputated both of his hands just below the wrists.
- An operator amputated his arm below the elbow while hand-feeding potatoes into a 5-horsepower meat grinder through a feed throat with a 4-inch-by-6-inch opening and no point of operation guard. This untrained employee had been working on the machine for only 15 minutes.
- An operator was bending metal parts using a 36-ton part-revolution power press brake that was foot-activated and equipped with a light curtain. About 3-4 inches of the light curtain had been “blanked out” during a previous part run. While adjusting a part at the point of operation, the employee accidentally activated the foot pedal and amputated three fingertips.
Clearly, from these three injury accounts, the importance of proper machine guarding can’t be overstated. Click on the publication link above for more information on specific machine hazards and safeguarding methods with handy tables and figures included.