According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there are nearly 3 million work-related injuries each year in the United States.
Approximately 5,000 of these work-related injuries are fatal. Many work-related injuries, including ones that significantly affect quality of life, are due to machine malfunctions. Such injuries are sometimes the result of negligence on the part of:
- The manufacturer
- An employer
- A co-worker
Types of Machine-Related Injuries
Machinery that doesn’t work as intended can result in injuries that range from minor cuts and bruises to disfigurements and damage to limbs. Many industrial machines have powerful motors and rapidly moving parts. If a worker’s hand or arm gets trapped, amputation may be necessary if it’s not possible to surgically repair the limb.
Machinery that malfunctions and becomes unstable may result in crush injuries that can apply sudden and intense pressure on various parts of the body. The resulting damage may include serious issues with nerves, muscles, blood vessels, bones, and joints. Unsafe or defective machinery may also result in the following injuries:
- Facial disfigurement
- Falls from the machinery itself
Types of Workers Affected
About 12 percent of the workplace injuries that can be attributed to machine malfunctions affect individuals in the manufacturing industry. It’s also this industry that makes up most of the fatalities involving machinery issues. To a lesser extent, the agriculture, construction, waste material, and mining industries are also affected by injuries or fatalities related to machine malfunctions.
Causes of Machine Malfunctions
Whether it’s industrial machinery or riding mowers, machines can malfunction for many different reasons. In some instances, it’s a lack of sufficient training that causes machinery not to work as expected. Other times, machines malfunction due to a lack of maintenance, poor electrical connections, a failure to replace worn parts, working a machine beyond its capacity, or improper storage or weather-related use. Malfunctions can also be caused if warning signs that a machine isn’t working right are ignored.
Extent of the damage, position at the time of the injury, and the patient’s age and overall health are among the variables that will determine how to treat machine-related injuries. With crush injuries, immobilization is recommended until the patient can be fully assessed. Treatment will also depend on the duration and force of the compression. The force of a crush may also compress large muscles and block circulation (circulatory ischemia), which may require surgery to repair tissue damage. Other machine-related injuries may require the re-setting of broken bones, surgery to address internal problems, or attempts to save a limb that’s either completely or partially detached.
Machine malfunctions sometimes result in injuries that will require long-term care and rehabilitation. Such care may involve physical therapy or the use of assistance devices such as canes, walkers, or wheelchairs. Some patients also experience chronic pain, mental impairment, or severe brain damage that permanently affects quality of life.
Workers’ compensation is designed to protect employers from lawsuits, which sometimes limits legal options. However, if a machine malfunction is due to a manufacturer’s defect, a third-party liability claim may be possible. Depending on the circumstances involved, an injured employee or their surviving family members may also be entitled to additional compensation.