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Machine Guarding and Misuse of Tools

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Construction work requires the extensive use of machinery and tools to get the job done, many of which pose serious risks to the user and those in the user’s vicinity. As such, accidents involving unsafe operations or improper use of tools and machines are major causes of construction accidents. There is an extensive web of safety regulations governing the use of construction machinery in an attempt to mitigate the risk of injury. Still, these types of accidents are nonetheless common due to the ubiquity of human error. If you have been injured by the unsafe operation or improper use of construction equipment, a construction negligence lawyer can help you recover. 

Machinery Accidents Are Common Causes of Injuries on Construction Sites

“Machinery and Machine Guarding” is one of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s top 10 most-frequently cited violations. The Bureau of Labor Statistics classifies injuries caused by improper machine guarding or the misuse of tools as part of its “contact with object, equipment” category, including the subcategories “struck against object or equipment” and “caught in or compressed by object or equipment.”

 “Struck against” accidents include bumping, stepping on, kicking, or being pushed or thrown into or against objects. “Caught in or compressed by” accidents occur when a person, or a part of a person’s body, was squeezed, pinched, compressed, or crushed by operating equipment, including injuries caused by trying to free oneself after being caught in an object or machine. These two classes of injuries together accounted for about 9% of total nonfatal occupational injuries in 2019 and 2% of fatal injuries.  

Proper Machine Guarding Is Crucial to Keeping Workers Safe 

Machine guarding generally refers to the safeguards that form a barrier between workers and the dangerous moving parts of construction machinery. The most important machine guards are those that shield the machine’s “point of operation” — i.e., the area on a machine where the work is actually performed upon the material being processed, such as the blade of a saw. Guards may also encompass areas ancillary to the point of operation, including belts and fans. 

There are several different types of machine guards, including: 

  • Fixed guards: Guards that are permanently attached to the machine or tool, do not have any moving parts and do not need to be moved for any of the machine’s operations. 
  • Adjustable guards: Guards that are permanently attached to the machine or tool but can be adjusted to facilitate different operations or different size stock being fed into the machine. These types of guards must be manually positioned in place by an employee. 
  • Self-adjusting guards: Guards that function similarly to adjustable guards but automatically adjust to the size of the stock being fed into the machine. 
  • Interlocked guards: Guards that shut off the machine’s power source when they are opened or removed to allow access to the guarded part of the machine. 

Just as construction equipment itself must be maintained, machine guards must also be maintained and used correctly. This requires frequent inspection of the equipment and adequate employee training on its use. An employer who fails to properly maintain its equipment in safe working order can expose itself to construction negligence lawsuits. 

Misuse of Tools 

Much of the heavy machinery and tools used on construction sites are dangerous even when operated correctly and for their intended purpose. The misuse of those tools raises the risk of injury even higher. Given the wide array of specialized tools available for use on construction sites, employee training is critical to ensuring that all employees know what a tool is, what it can be used for, and how it can be used safely. There are several different ways an employee might misuse a tool, such as: 

  • Failing to follow instructions provided by the tool manufacturer
  • Failing to heed safety warnings on the tool itself
  • Failing to follow safety regulations concerning the use of the tool
  • Using a tool for a purpose for which it was not intended
  • Pushing a tool beyond its capacity (e.g., speed, weight, temperature, etc.) 
  • Using a tool without adequate training 
  • Intentionally disabling machine guards or other safety features 
  • Modifying a tool for better performance 

Lack of proper training is a significant contributor to tool misuse, but it is far from the only culprit. Even experienced construction workers can misuse tools, such as by disregarding safety warnings or by attempting to do a job “the easy way.” Whether a particular use of a tool can be considered “misuse” is often open to interpretation, which can require the assistance of a construction negligence attorney

Tool Misuse Can Result in Severe Injuries 

The misuse of tools or inadequacy of machine guards can result in serious, life-altering injuries for their victims. Some common injuries caused by machinery accidents include: 

  • Amputated limbs (especially fingers, hands, and arms) 
  • Broken and crushed bones
  • Electrocutions and electrical shock 
  • Major blood loss
  • Burns
  • Head injuries
  • Flaying 
  • Eye injuries and blindness 

While not every accident caused by the misuse of tools or improper machine guarding will be catastrophic, even a minor injury can temporarily keep a worker off the job and cause significant financial harm. 

Legal Remedies for Injuries Caused by Improper Machine Guarding and Misuse of Tools

Workers who are injured due to improper machine guarding or the misuse of tools may be eligible for benefits through the workers’ compensation program, which provides weekly cash benefits and medical benefits to injured workers while they recover. An injured worker might also be able to pursue a traditional personal injury third-party claim if the accident was caused by someone other than his or her employer — for example, a subcontractor on a job site. An experienced construction negligence lawyer can help you determine which course of action would be best for you. 

Contact a Long Island Construction Negligence Lawyer for More Information

If you have been hurt as a result of the misuse of tools or the failure of machine guarding, you may want to speak to an attorney who can help you evaluate your options. For more information, please contact a Long Island construction negligence lawyer at Turley, Redmond, Rosasco & Rosasco by using our online form or calling 631-399-0400 with offices in Garden City, Shirley, and, Ronkonkoma.  

 

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