A sizeable amount of the more than 3 million work-related injuries that occur in the United States each year involve machine malfunctions.
The resulting injuries are sometimes accidental, while others are caused by some type of negligence on the part of an employer, equipment manufacturer, or co-worker. Injuries of this nature typically require immediate medical attention due to the risk of severe damage to limbs, infection, and internal problems.
Common Machine-Related Injuries
Some machine malfunctions produce nothing more than minor cuts and scrapes. Industrial machines, however, tend to be produce serious injuries because they have several moving parts. The excessive weight of such machinery also increases the odds that any type of malfunction will likely contribute to serious and potentially debilitating or life-threatening injuries.
For example, getting an arm caught in equipment like this could lead to the need for amputation if the limb is severely damaged and cannot be repaired surgically. Crush injuries are also common with machine malfunction accidents. Injuries like this can seriously damage bones, joints, blood vessels, and nerves. Machine-related injuries may also include:
- Facial disfigurement
- Severe gashes or cuts
- Eye injuries if a malfunction causes debris to fly
Why Machine Malfunctions Occur
Insufficient training is one possible reason why a machine malfunction may occur. Such incidents can also involve machinery that’s used for outdoor work, such as riding mowers, mulching machines, and farm equipment. With this type of machinery, malfunctions may occur if an employer insists that certain machines be used in ways not in line with the manufacturer’s instructions.
Other times, malfunctions may be the result of a lack of proper maintenance, or improper storage. Malfunction-related injuries can sometimes occur if an employer fails to post a sign that states a machine is temporarily out of order. It’s also possible manufacturer’s defects to cause machine malfunctions.
Treating Machine-Related Injuries
The part of the body affected, an injured worker’s overall health, and the nature of the injury are among the factors that will determine how a machine malfunction injury is treated. With crush injuries, image tests are often done to determine how internal structures are affected. If the damage is severe, surgery may be necessary to correct issues with internal bleeding, bone fractures, and/or organ damage. Additional treatment may be needed if there is tissue damage due to circulation blockage (circulatory ischemia).
With a limb that’s detached or partially detached, surgery may be performed in an attempt to save the affected limb. Broken bones are usually re-set or surgically repaired if the fracture is severe. Plastic or reconstructive surgery may be necessary if there is facial damage from debris or parts that came loose from a machine that’s largely cosmetic — e.g., scars remaining from healed injuries. Some machine malfunction victims may also receive treatment that involves:
- Skin grafts
- Circulation stimulation
- Training to learn how to use an artificial limb
- Certain types of physical therapy
Machine malfunctions are more likely to affect workers in the manufacturing industry due to the need to work in close proximity to various types of equipment. However, people working in the agricultural, mining, construction, and waste water industries are also susceptible to such injuries. Preventative measures that may reduce the risk of machine-related injuries include the use of machine guards around moving or sharp parts, posted operation instructions, and proper equipment usage training.