A global floor mat manufacturer has been fined more than $50,000 after a worker was seriously injured while working in the company’s Calhoun plant, about an hour north of Atlanta.
According to a news release by the U.S. Department of Labor, the 42-year-old maintenance worker experienced enormous pain and had to undergo surgery and the placement of a shunt inside his hand after the incident. Reports are the worker had his left hand injected with fluid from a hydraulic line that was leaking. He had been performing maintenance on a machine at the time of the incident.
He was rushed to the hospital, where he was admitted and had to undergo surgery. A shunt was placed to drain the fluid and bring down the extensive swelling. While the Occupational Safety & Health Administration was investigating the incident, investigators learned of at least nine major safety violations at the company.
A citation details those findings, which included:
- No safe means of access to conveyors, which started and stopped without warning and presented a fall hazard to workers.
- Electric protective equipment wasn’t properly tested.
- Machine guarding was not provided to workers to protect them from rotating parts, sparks and flying chips.
- Employees were not trained in safe work practices on or near live electrical parts, putting them at risk of electric shock and arc flash/blast hazards.
- Unqualified maintenance workers worked on or near live electrical equipment, even though they weren’t trained in proper safety practices.
In the case of the worker who suffered the hydraulic fluid injury, it’s not clear whether he will suffer long-term effects from the incident, though it is probable. A 2008 study published in the quarterly Hippokratia Medical Journal determined that while high-pressure injection injuries are rare, the injected substances can lead to extensive tissue damage and sometimes even loss of a limb. In the eight cases studied that involved patients who were injected with lubricants and solvents, all had mild symptoms initially but got worse over time. Outcomes were fairly good when patients received prompt diagnosis and immediate, aggressive surgical intervention.
Hydraulic fluid injection is one of the most dangerous injuries that can result from a hydraulic hose failure. It can often appear benign in the beginning, but the material is toxic and poisonous. It initially feels like a pin prick or bee sting, but it may in fact be life-threatening in a matter of hours if it’s not treated immediately.
British researchers studied hydraulic fluid injection injuries in 2013, and found these type of injuries occur almost entirely to male manual workers (skilled and unskilled) and mostly sustained to the palm or pads of the non-dominant hand.
The facility in Calhoun has an estimated 800 workers. With regard to the injection injury, safety investigators determined the company failed to properly guard the machine the worker was servicing.
Manufacturing firm has a period of time during which it can appeal these findings, the deadline for which is the end of this month.
This particular firm has been cited six times in the last decade for work safety violations, with three of those being serious. The most the company paid for work safety violations before this was $5,500.
For information on Atlanta work injury compensation, contact J. Franklin Burns, P.C., at 1-404-303-7770.
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