COLUMBUS, Ohio—The Occupational Safety and Health Administration is hitting hard at the issue of lockout/tag-out and machine safety guarding and putting a laser focus on amputations that could result from failure to disconnect all energy before servicing and maintenance of industrial machines.
That was the message from two lawyers who spoke at the Environmental Health and Safety Summit.
"When do most often amputations occur? When someone forgot to lockout/tag-out and when there's a lack of a guard. That's when you're going to see an amputation," said Nelva Smith, of the Steptoe & Johnson law firm.
OSHA revised its reporting rule on Jan. 1, 2015, requiring employers to report within 24 hours any amputation injury, even if there is no loss of bone, as well as eye injuries and all in-patient hospitalizations. OSHA kept its ongoing rule that fatalities must be reported within eight hours.
Smith said OSHA is increasing fines every year for amputations.
"Now you can go up to $139,000 for a maximum for a willful and a repeat (violations)," she said. "So you can easily get one citation for $139,000. Imagine if you got five citations? How much is that? Over a half million dollars. And again, there's a pattern. They're really hitting the lockout/tag-out and machine guarding."
Plastics machinery, such as injection molding machinery, can cause serious injuries from pinching and crushing, especially in the mold clamping area.
"It's to prevent serious injury or death. You should be aware of the standard and what your requirements are under the standard," Smith said.
OSHA defines "amputation" broadly and is stricter than workers' compensation, according to William Wahoff, a lawyer at the firm. "If it is the tip of the finger without any bone damaged, you still have to report it for OSHA."
And Wahoff said amputations are likely to lead to OSHA inspections: 65 percent of reported amputations resulted in inspections, compared with in-patient hospitalizations, which lead to inspections in around 35-40 percent of the cases.