Forensic Engineers and Consultants

Archive: Workers’ Compensation

Unguarded Shear Point on Force Tester Amputates Worker’s Finger

A worker was injured while testing gas springs similar to the type that hold the hatchback of an SUV open. The hazard that injured the worker was an unguarded shear point. The tester contained a mounting plate that was raised and lowered by a pneumatic cylinder.

The pneumatic cylinder lowered the mounting plate while the worker’s fingers were in the hazardous, unguarded shear point. The force testing machine violated applicable safety standards including ASME B15.1-2000 Safety Standard for Mechanical Power Transmission Apparatus sections 1.3 and 3.1.

Unguarded Shear point 1 white

The force tester. 

It was technologically and economically feasible for the manufacturer to have guarded the hazardous shear point at the time they designed and built the force testing machine by installing a fixed guard to prevent a worker from getting too close to the hazard. The hazardous, unguarded shear point on the force testing machine was capable of producing serious injury, including amputating fingers.

The risk of injury associated with the hazardous shear point was high because the hazard was unguarded, workers were exposed to the hazard every time the force testing machine cycled, and serious injury would occur every time a worker’s body part became trapped in the rapidly closing shear point. The high risk of injury associated with the hazardous, unguarded shear point was not tolerable because it was feasible to control the hazard using a fixed guard with no effect on the utility of the force tester.

It was or should have been foreseeable to the manufacturer at the time they designed and manufactured the force testing machine that the hazardous, unguarded pinch point would cause serious harm any time an operator got too close to the hazard.

Unguarded Shear Point Img 2

A shear point was created between the fixed frame and the movable mounting plate when the pneumatic cylinder lowered the mounting plate.

The force testing machine was unreasonably dangerous and defective.  It contained an uncontrolled hazard with a high, foreseeable and intolerable risk of serious injury with a certain probability of occurrence any time a worker’s body part is caught in the shear point.  There were technologically and economically feasible means that existed to control the hazard at the time of the machine’s design and manufacture. The unreasonably dangerous and defective condition of the force tester was a cause of the worker’s injury.

Unguarded Shear Point IMG 3 whiteA simple Lexan guard was all that was required to protect a worker from the hazardous shear point.

If you have a case involving personal injury involving a worker injured on a machine in an industrial setting, please give us a call. We are happy to consult with you.

Electric Hazard Guardrail photo

Hazards Can Lurk Anywhere … Watch Your Step …

Author

While on a lunch stop during a recent vacation trip through Tennessee, I happened across a safety hazard that required immediate attention.  The establishment had a raised concrete patio at the front with a steel railing around the perimeter.  At one edge of the patio was a set of stairs with a continuation of the steel railing used as a handrail.  The top edge of the patio had light strings wrapping the top metal bar as accent lighting for the perimeter.  The light string continued down the stair handrail wrapped in the same manner as the rest of the patio.

Electric Hazard Guardrail photo

FIGURE 1 – A view of the subject patio

While walking down the stairs, it was noted that two bulbs were missing from the sockets on the portion of the light string that wrapped the handrail.  The sockets, a common Edison-style base, were open to the weather.  More significantly, the open sockets were in the path of a person’s hand (adult or child) sliding down the handrail while traversing the stairs.  The damaged condition of the light strings due to the missing bulbs presented an electrocution hazard.  While the risk of electrocution may be mitigated if the light strings are supplied by the required National Electric Code (NEC) Article 527.5, Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter (GFCI) protected circuit, the condition of the light string presented a hazard.

Closeup photo of one of the open lamp sockets

FIGURE 2 – Closeup photo of one of the two open lamp sockets

Further, the wrapping of the light string around the handrail violates the International Building Code (IBC) requirements.  Section 1012.4 Continuity states that “Handrail gripping surfaces shall be continuous, without interruption by newel posts or other obstructions.”  The random placement of the cable from the light string randomly interferes with the continuous profile of the handrail.

View of the cord wrapping the handrail interfering with usability

FIGURE 3 – View of the cord wrapping the handrail interfering with usability

While there was likely good intent with the placement of the light string to add light to the stairs, the method that was used impeded the use of the handrail.   Further, lack of maintenance by not replacing the missing bulbs crated a shock or electrocution hazard.   Beware of these lurking hazards, if things don’t look right, they probably aren’t.

Tom Kelly has a Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering and a Master of Science in Electrical Engineering from Florida Atlantic University, Boca Raton, Florida, along with a Master of Business Administration with emphasis in strategic leadership from Winthrop University, Rock Hill, South Carolina. Tom’s 25-year career in electrical engineering includes forensic engineering investigations involving industrial electrical accidents, electrical equipment failure analysis, control system failures, robotics and automation components, and scope of damage assessments.  He has conducted investigations for fires, arc flash incidents, electrocution and electric shock accidents and lightning strike evaluations.

3D Collision Impact Angle

Why investigators should have “Scaled Diagrams” of scenes?

Author

When it comes to diagramming a crash scene, there are several methods to complete the task. Forensic Mapping, (locating, positioning, and documenting the evidence of a collision scene to scale) is essential to having the answers to the questions “Who, What, Where, When, and Why”. Photographs do a great job showing what the investigators saw post collision; yet they lack scale and the ability to describe pre-collision movement. Having a computer aided diagram (CAD) of the collision scene goes much further than the pictures can; here is why.

basic intersectionA scale diagram gives the full overview of a collision scene from either a 2D or 3D point of view. Being able to see how things lined up, how they came together and how they parted helps explain the events within a crash. When a scene can be viewed from top down or any angle, that helps relay the facts. The investigator, judge, or jury will get Read More

box bailer

Defective Vertical Baler Causes Serious Crush Injury to Operator’s Arm

I recently worked on an interesting case involving a box baler. An employee of a butcher shop put some empty cardboard boxes in a vertical box baler and pushed the control switch to compact the boxes. After the 30 by 60 inch platen weighing 851 pounds returned to its raised position, the employee reached into the open space above the bottom door on the baler and began to clear cardboard from the bale tie slots in the bottom of the raised platen. Suddenly, and without warning, the steel pin attaching the platen to the raised hydraulic cylinder rod failed. The heavy steel platen fell and crushed his arm which was outstretched over the baler door into the compaction space.

Read More

Figure 1: A typical warning found on a confined space.

Permit-Required Confined Spaces – What You Need to Know to Safely Enter (and Exit!)

According to the OSHA regulations, a confined space is anyplace that meets the following criteria:

(1)   Is large enough and so configured that an employee can bodily enter and perform assigned work; and
(2)  Has limited or restricted means for entry or exit; and
(3)  Is not designed for continuous employee occupancy. Read More

A close-up view of the steel column.

Timber – Falling Beam Strikes Worker

As an experienced safety consultant, I have investigated many serious injuries and deaths at construction sites over the past 39 years. The United States Department of Labor reports that the fatal injury rate for the construction industry is highest of all industries in the nation. Out of 4,386 worker fatalities in private industry in calendar year 2014, 899 or 20.5% were in construction i.e., one in five worker deaths were in construction. Read More

openings-graphic

Who is Responsible for a “Booby Trap” Opening on a Roof Top? Part 3

As an experienced safety consultant, I have investigated many incidents in my career in which a worker “falls through an opening.”  The majority of these incidents have occurred at construction sites and most resulted in serious injury or death. Read More

Warren engineers,   John Holecek and Aron Olson working with new fall protection equipment.

Not Falling for Your Job?

Periodically, Warren Engineers and Consultants are asked to perform inspections that require work at raised elevations. Typical jobs and tasks include climbing on commercial and residential roofs with steep pitches, working on scaffolding, climbing from one level to the next at a fire or industrial loss scene, riding in the buckets of lift equipment, and inspecting exterior structural elements such as windows and masonry.  Read More

Figure 2. A detail of the CAD model showing the area in which the firefighter was injured.

Firefighter burned due to improper industrial oven design and operation

Author

Industrial ovens and furnaces are used in many manufacturing processes.  One use of industrial ovens is for drying and curing coatings on fabrics.

I investigated a fire loss involving a very large oven, 10 stories high, used for curing coatings on an industrial fabric. A young firefighter was burned in response to this fire, one of a string of many fires that had occurred involving the oven.

Read More

wc-blog-banner

Workers Compensation Subrogation Potential: Top 4 Data Needs for Experts

Author

Oftentimes, an insurance adjuster may suspect that the potential exists for a workers compensation claim to be subrogated, but would like a second opinion from an expert before launching a full-blown investigation; alternately, the adjuster may hold the opinion that the subrogation potential is not great, but would like a second opinion for confirmation of his view. Read More

Type ofLoss

Not sure what you're looking for?
Browse All

Select Loss Category