Safety at Work

Amputations Related To The Workplace

Amputations are widespread in the workplace. Most of all workplace amputations occur in the manufacturing sector. The rest occur in construction, agriculture, wholesale, retail and service industries.

These injuries result from the use of machines such as presses, conveyors, shaping machines, saws, hand tools, forklifts, doors and trash compactors.

One must recognize contributing factors for amputations such as hazardous mechanical components and hazardous mechanical motions like rotating machinery.

Employees operating and caring for machinery perform activities that present potential amputation hazards. Most of these activities involve servicing and maintenance of machinery such as machine inspection, cleaning jams and cleaning of machines. Therefore understanding the mechanical components of machinery will help workers avoid injury.

The primary method for preventing amputations is to safeguard machines. Safeguarding of machines can be done by guards which provide physical barriers that prevent access to danger areas and by safeguarding devices to prevent operator contact with hazardous machine motion or if any part of an individual's body is within the hazardous portion of the machine.

There are four types of machine guards:

  1. Fixed machine guards are barriers that permit operators to reach the danger area and permanently enclose the hazard area.
  2. Adjustable machine guards are barriers that adjust and can be constructed to suit many situations. It may however require frequent maintenance.
  3. Interlocking machine guards shuts off power and prevents machine start-up when guard is open. It requires periodic maintenance.
  4. Self-adjusting machine guards moves according to the size of the stock entering point of operation and is commercially available but does not provide maximum protection.

Risk indicators in the workplace to look for include:

  • Unguarded moving parts of machinery;
  • Machine guards which are loose, incomplete or allow people to put parts of their body through, or climb over, under or around;
  • Machinery which is able to be started without the guard being in its correct position;
  • Machinery which is not maintained in good working order;
  • Machinery which is able to be inadvertently started;
  • Moving parts or controls which are difficult to see due, possibly because of poor lighting;
  • Untrained operators working with machinery;
  • Cluttered or confined work areas at machines;
  • Work practices which require employees to rush their work;
  • Mobile machines and vehicles being operated outside of designated areas;
  • Incorrect use of equipment.
Here are a few examples of what can be done to stop amputations from happening. Employers should, for example, make sure that:

  1. All moving parts of machinery are guarded and the guards cannot be readily removed;
  2. Guards are designed and constructed which prevent people (either whole body or parts of) coming in contact with moving parts during machine operation;
  3. Machine work areas are clearly defined, for example, by marking floor areas, and by limiting access to only those employees authorised to work with the machines;
  4. Safe working procedures are developed for all machinery and promoted in the workplace;
  5. All machinery is regularly inspected, services and tested by qualified persons;
  6. Controls are located within easy reach of the operator and cannot be unintentionally turned on;
  7. Work areas are well lit and uncluttered;
  8. Regular inspections of guarding integrity are carried out;
  9. Correct tools are used for the job.
Safeguards need to be properly designed, constructed, installed, used and maintained to ensure that the workers are protected.

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