Stephen Hasner | Workers' Compensation | August 28, 2018
Workplace amputation accidents may happen quickly, but the consequences last a lifetime. Initially, victims deal with the shock of an injury that seems unreal yet is profound enough to change their lives forever. Physical and financial limitations control everything they do. They heal, but endure debilitating pain, costly medical treatment, an indefinite loss of income, and a questionable future.
Recent Bureau of Labor Statistics data show that workers lose an average of 23 work days annually due to amputation accidents. These figures are deceptively low as they are an average of lost-time stats for minor and major amputations requiring significantly more healing time.
When an accidental amputation injures a worker, their workers’ compensation benefits may not be enough to cover basic living expenses. When (if ever) they return to work, their amputation disability may mean a restriction to a less physical job with lower pay.
Workplace amputations tend to leave victims with permanent physical limitations, scarring, and disfigurement. Multiple finger amputations (or crushed hand injuries, especially) may limit a person’s return to gainful employment. Without additional financial resources, workers whose hands have been severely injured may endure a significant reduction in their quality of life.
For these reasons, it can be important for victims of workplace amputations to consult with experienced legal counsel to ensure that their rights are protected and they recover the compensation they deserve.
More Often Than You Think
Workplace amputation accidents oftentimes occur as a result of human interactions with machines that rotate, cut, shear, bend, punch, grind or otherwise use force to shape materials or move products. These mechanical movements cause injuries due to a variety of circumstances:
- Pulling loose clothing, jewelry, or hair into open machinery
- Slicing fingers or hands
- Striking, trapping, or crushing body parts
Amputations are such a major concern that they were included in the government’s official publication of statistics for its new Severe Injury Reporting Program. Guidelines require that employers report amputations to the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) within 24 hours of the occurrence. During the first year of the program, employers reported 2,644 amputations nationwide. While the injuries occurred across a variety of industries and circumstances, 57 percent happened during manufacturing operations.
Because machines that can cause amputations are also critical to manufacturing, transportation, construction and other commercial operations, they remain in service despite a track record of injuries. Employers sometimes claim employee inattention or error as a contributing factor, but under most circumstances, that is difficult to prove and also likely irrelevant. The fact that an amputation injury happened in a workplace tends to indicate that the employer failed to meet workplace safety requirements. OSHA focuses on that fact when publishing recommendations for avoiding workplace amputations.
OSHA’s publication, “Safeguarding Equipment and Protecting Employees From Amputation,“ is a comprehensive amputation resource. It describes amputation hazards and the machines and actions typically involved. The publication provides a list of recommended safety solutions.
- Guard – A barrier to prevent exposure
- Safeguarding devices – Devices that detect and prevent “inadvertent access”
- Awareness devices – Signals, signs and other devices that warn of impending hazards
- Safeguarding methods – Physical measures to protect employees and prevent access to hazards
- Safe work procedures – Written user instructions
In addition, the Child Labor Provisions of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) seek to minimize workplace amputation hazards by implementing formal job restrictions. The Act prohibits non-farm workers under the age of 18 from performing inherently hazardous jobs. Punching, shearing, metal-forming, power-driven meat processing and sawing are among the forbidden tasks.
Workers’ Compensation Benefits
An on-the-job injury entitles you to benefits under Georgia workers’ compensation laws. Once your employer makes a report, the insurance company coordinates your claim. You may seek treatment from your employer’s list of designated physicians or a Workers’ Compensation Managed Care Organization (WC/MCO). You may qualify for lost wage benefits after a seven-day disability with wage benefit options that change as you remain disabled. You may also be entitled to other workers’ compensation benefits. If your employer is self-insured, they will handle your claim in-house.
Other Recovery Options
In most circumstances, workers’ compensation benefits are the only option offered under Georgia law for recovery against your employer, regardless of negligence. If you were injured while using an unguarded, defective, or inherently dangerous machine or device, Hasner Law’s Savannah attorneys may be able to help you determine if you have other channels of recovery.
- Product liability lawsuit – You may be able to recover damages by filing a suit against the product designer, manufacturer, maintenance contractor, or any other party in the chain of creation, distribution, or maintenance.
- Social Security – If you’re disabled for an extended period, you may qualify for Social Security disability benefits.
Amputation Injury Claims Require Immediate Attention
An amputation injury can complicate your life into the foreseeable future. Recovering the benefits and other compensation you deserve can be complicated and frustrating.