Employers in California’s manufacturing industry have the task of making sure workers lose no limbs in work-related accidents. If you work in the wood processing sector, the risk level is particularly high. Even if your employer puts all the safety devices in place to prevent amputation injuries, it might not be sufficient. Safety standards and protocols that lack training, supervision and enforcement are not worth much because there will always be the human factor to monitor.
The California Division of Occupational Safety and Health requires employers to ensure point of operation guarding, hazardous energy control and exposure control are components of the safety program. Scheduled risk assessments can ensure that new hazards are not overlooked.
As an employee, you have a right to a safe work environment, and you may refuse dangerous tasks without the required protective systems in place. If you gain knowledge of the following Cal/OSHA’s safety requirements to prevent amputation injuries, you can reduce the risks of losing a hand, arm or another body part:
- Risk assessment: This is a crucial step because it will form the basis for overall safety at the plant, including the written safety program, administrative and engineering control requirements, personal protective equipment requirements, and safety training.
- Safety training: Safety training must be ongoing, with initial training upon the start of employment, and scheduled safety training session to prevent complacency. Additional training must accompany the installation of new equipment, and also whenever near misses occur.
- Written safety program: The company’s overall illness and injury prevention program must be available for all to read in a written document. It must include safety training, policies, procedures and rules with annual updates.
- Overall safety inspections: This requires routine inspections, at least quarterly, to evaluate overall safety on the plant, and also compliance with Cal/OSHA safety standards and guidelines.
- Enforcement: Supervision and enforcement are crucial at all times. Complacency among you and your co-workers can lead to taking shortcuts and disregarding safety regulations that are in place to protect you.
- Machine guarding: Safeguards must prevent point of operation contact, and under no circumstances may you remove them, render them inoperative or by-pass them. You may refuse to work on a machine without the required safeguards in place.
- Entanglement risks: Never lose sight of the fact that loose clothing and loose hair can become entangled in moving or rotating machine parts. If you have long hair, tie it up or use a hairnet, button your shirt, tuck in your shirt, wear appropriately fitted gloves and tuck your sleeves into the gloves.
It is not uncommon for workers to think many of these regulations are unnecessary and over the top. However, the frequency of amputation injuries and even fatalities in the wood processing industry proves the need for compliance with all safety regulations.
Losing a finger, hand, arm or any body part in a work-related accident is traumatic and life-changing. If you become the victim of such an injury, it might be a good idea to talk to an attorney who has experience in dealing with the California workers’ compensation insurance program. Legal counsel can work to ensure you receive maximum applicable benefits, which might include vocational rehabilitation to equip you with new skills if your disability prevents you from returning to your previous occupation.