New Jersey Employer Fined $126,000 for Allowing Worker Hazards

New Jersey-based Supply Plus was recently cited with one willful, 25 serious and two other-than-serious safety violations in response to a complaint alleging imminent danger for failing to guard machines and exposing workers to fall and electrical hazards at the company's Paterson facility, according to an OSHA report. Proposed penalties total $126, 000.
 
 
An inspection revealed one willful violation, with a $42,000 penalty, for failing to provide machine guarding. A willful violation is one committed with intentional knowing or voluntary disregard for the law's requirements, or with plain indifference to worker safety and health. (WCxKit)
 
 
The serious violations, with $84,000 in penalties, include failing to keep work areas and passageways free of litter; provide guardrail protection, guard machines and electrical boxes; provide an eyewash station; provide personal protective equipment for workers handling chemicals; provide industrial truck and hazardous communication training; ensure exit routes were unobstructed and visibly marked; make sure exit doors could open properly; cover electrical panel boards supplying power for equipment and lighting; properly use flexible cords; implement a lockout/tagout program for energy sources to prevent machines from accidentally starting up during servicing and maintenance; perform workplace hazards assessment and develop a written hazardous communication program.

A serious violation occurs when there is substantial probability that death or serious physical harm could result from a hazard about which the employer knew or should have known.
 
 
The other-than-serious violations, carrying no penalty, are due to record-keeping violations. An-other-than-serious violation is one that has a direct relationship to job safety and health, but probably would not cause death or serious physical harm. (WCxKit)
 
 
"Each of these violations left workers vulnerable to hazards that could cause serious injuries or quite possibly death," said Lisa Levy, OSHA's area director in Hasbrouck Heights. "It's vital that Supply Plus correct these hazards to protect its workers."

Author Robert Elliott, executive vice president, Amaxx Risk Solutions, Inc. has worked successfully for 20 years with many industries to reduce Workers Compensation costs, including airlines, healthcare, printing/publishing, pharmaceuticals, retail, hospitality and manufacturing. See www.LowerWC.com for more information. Contact: Info@ReduceYourWorkersComp.com.
 

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©2011 Amaxx Risk Solutions, Inc. All rights reserved under International Copyright Law. If you would like permission to reprint this material, contact Info@ReduceYourWorkersComp.com

Australian Employee Crushed to Death in Industrial Blender

A Western Sydney manufacturing company and its director were recently fined a total of $127,400 and ordered to pay WorkCover’s legal costs after a high powered industrial blender was turned on with a man inside it.
 
 
According to a report from the WorkCover Authority, FIP Brakes International (FIP) produces industrial sized brake pads, as well as other products, for trains and other railway vehicles and employs around 60 people mainly based at its facility in Wetherill Park. Its managing director is Chris Katakouzinos. (WCxKit)
 
 
A machine operator was killed when he was cleaning out an industrial blender at FIP’s premises.
The power to the machine had not been isolated and the machine became operational with the worker still inside. He died at the site with extensive crush injuries and lacerations.
 
 
A WorkCover investigation found a significant number of safety failings:
 

1.      The machine should not have been able to operate while its front

       doors were open. 

2.      The safety switches were either broken or malfunctioning. 

3.      The machine’s electrical power supply had not been turned off. 

4.      The machine operator should not have been working alone. 

5.      The machine was not properly maintained. 

6.      The operator was not given proper training.

 
 
FIP and its director were charged with breaches of the Occupational Health and Safety Act 2000.
 
 
In handing down her finding in the Industrial Court, Justice Backman said the incident was foreseeable and that there were serious deficiencies in the company’s systems. (WCxKit)
 
 
They both pleaded guilty. FIP was fined $117,000 and Mr. Katakouzinos $10,400. The court ordered them to pay WorkCover’s legal costs.
 

 
Author Robert Elliott, executive vice president, Amaxx Risk Solutions, Inc. has worked successfully for 20 years with many industries to reduce Workers Compensation costs, including airlines, healthcare, printing/publishing, pharmaceuticals, retail, hospitality and manufacturing. See www.LowerWC.com for more information. Contact: Info@ReduceYourWorkersComp.com.

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Do not use this information without independent verification. All state laws vary. You should consult with your insurance broker or agent about workers comp issues.
 
©2011 Amaxx Risk Solutions, Inc. All rights reserved under International Copyright Law. If you would like permission to reprint this material, contact Info@ReduceYourWorkersComp.com.

UK Baker Fined After Teen Employee Has Fingers Crushed

A baker from Hampshire, Great Britain has been fined after a teenage worker had his fingers crushed in a machine at a bakery near Ringwood.

 
 
According to a report from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), the agency prosecuted Peter Ellis, 58, of Belinda’s Bakery over the incident, which happened in 2010. (WCxKit)
 
 
Southampton Magistrates’ Court heard that a male worker, who does not want to be named, was operating a dough molder at a Belinda’s Bakery in the village of Poulner, Hampshire. The machine has two powered running rollers which drive dough through the machine, to be molded to the correct shape and size.
 
 
While operating the machine, the worker put his right hand in between the rollers. He suffered crush and skin injuries to his fingers and sustained cuts and bruising to the middle and index fingers. The HSE investigation found there was no guarding in place to prevent access to the powered rollers on the machine. The court was told that immediately following the incident, Ellis reinstalled guarding on the dough molder, which had been removed some two years earlier. (WCxKit). Note: in a claim like this, the manufacturer should be put on notice of a potential "failure to guard" claim because the machine should have had "fail safe" guarding.
 
 
Ellis of Picket Hill, Ringwood, Hampshire pleaded guilty to breaching Regulation 11(1) (a) of Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998. He was fined $800 and ordered to pay costs of $500.

 

Author Robert Elliott, executive vice president, Amaxx Risk Solutions, Inc. has worked successfully for 20 years with many industries to reduce Workers Compensation costs, including airlines, healthcare, printing/publishing, pharmaceuticals, retail, hospitality and manufacturing. See www.LowerWC.com for more information. Contact: Info@ReduceYourWorkersComp.com.


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Do not use this information without independent verification. All state laws vary. You should consult with your insurance broker or agent about workers comp issues.
 
©2011 Amaxx Risk Solutions, Inc. All rights reserved under International Copyright Law. If you would like permission to reprint this material, contact

Info@ReduceYourWorkersComp.com.

Better Safety For Table Saws – 10 People PER DAY Lose Fingers in U.S.

Close to 10 individuals lose a finger or mangle a hand in a table saw each day across the country. And for years there has been a technology designed to stop those injuries, leading consumer advocates to demand that federal officials speed up new rules enabling table saws to be safer.
 
 
According to a report from the Associated Press, the technology, which has a sensor that can prohibit the blade from continuing if a finger gets too close, was first developed in the late 1990s. To date, the majority of manufacturers haven't embraced it, in part to disagreements over spending. (WCxKit)
 
 
According to manufacturers, adding the technology would make saws considerably more costly. On the opposing side of the aisle, the technology's inventor wants to be paid for their creation – something they claim the companies making saws aren't willing to do.
 
 
The manufacturers, via a trade association, have brought on high-powered Washington lobbyists – compensating Bracewell & Giuliani $30,000 in the first quarter of the year – to promote their case in front of Congress and the Consumer Product Safety Commission, the federal agency charged with overseeing the safety of a countless number of products.
 
 
In 2006, the commission was slated to address table saw safety based on a petition Gass filed three years earlier seeking the agency require that saws have a technology to stop the blade if flesh is sensed. But a change in leadership at CPSC seeking more research on the problem, resulted in a delay.
 
 
To date, several hundred lawsuits have been filed against manufacturers regarding table saw injuries. (WCxKit)
 
 
Meantime, the industry reports it has come up with new plastic guards to shield table saw users from the dangers of a spinning blade. Great, let's see them!
 
Having worked for a manufacturer and a defense law firm, I believe that even though guards do cost money and recalls are expensive, there are some things that just need to be addressed – and machines that cut off fingers and hands fall into that category. This is where we balance the needs of consumers with those of the manufacturer and society as a whole.

I hear criticism about how plaintiff's attorneys cause costs to rise, however, keep in mind that without plaintiff's attorneys and the contingency payment system we have in this country, it would be impossible for those who lose their body parts to address these safety concerns in court. 

Manufacturers have little incentive to make safer products and recall those that are unsafe without the threat of expensive litigation. Without large punitive damage awards, safety measures would not be improved. Or, to put it another way, it is the large punitive damage awards that force manufacturers to design safety into their products and guard those products which are necessary for consumers even with inherent safety concerns where a design flaw cannot be designed out.

These machines need to have proper, effecitive fail safe guards. A fail-safe guard is one where if the guard is removed the machine will stop working (before an injury occurs) — spinning blades must stop immediately upon the guard being removed. Also, slapping a warning label of a product that could have had the defect designed out or guarded, is simply not adequate.

 

Author Rebecca Shafer
, JD, President of Amaxx Risks Solutions, Inc. is a national expert in the field of workers compensation. She is a writer, speaker, and website publisher. Her expertise is working with employers to reduce workers compensation costs, and her clients include airlines, healthcare, printing/publishing, pharmaceuticals, retail, hospitality, and manufacturing. See www.LowerWC.com for more information. Contact:RShafer@ReduceYourWorkersComp.com or 860-553-6604.

 
Do not use this information without independent verification. All state laws vary. You should consult with your insurance broker or agent about workers comp issues.
 
©2011 Amaxx Risk Solutions, Inc. All rights reserved under International Copyright Law. If you would like permission to reprint this material, contact Info@ReduceYourWorkersComp.com.

How Product Liability and Workers Compensation Interact

When a product – anything that is manufactured – fails to perform its intended function, and the failure of the product causes an injury, the person injured has a products liability claim against the manufacturer. When the product fails while being used by an employee causing a workers compensation claim, the workers compensation insurer can bring a subrogation claim (the right to recover) against the manufacturer.

 

 

To illustrate this, think of the Warner Bros. cartoon Road Runner where the main character, Wile E. Coyote, is always going about his job of catching the Road Runner. As Wile E. describes himself in some of the cartoons as “super genius”, he realizes he has a dangerous occupation, and therefore, even though he is self-employed, he has purchased workers compensation insurance. Wile E. often purchases products from the Acme Corporation (even though many of the products failed to perform as intended). One of his favorite tools in his business of trying to catch the Road Runner is the stick of dynamite. If Wile E. lights the fuse on the stick of dynamite, and Wile E. ends up in the wrong place at the wrong time, he gets a blacken face from the stick of dynamite. He has a work comp claim, but he does not have a products liability claim.   On the other hand, if Wile E. is holding the stick of dynamite and the dynamite’ fuse malfunctions blowing Wile E. up, he has both a workers’ compensation claim and a products liability claim. (WCxKit)

 

 

The product that malfunctions, like Wile E’s stick of dynamite, is the most common several types of products liability claim, but product malfunctions are not the only cause of product liability claims. In general, there are four types of product liability claims. They are:

 

  1. Products that are defectively manufactured
  2. Products that have a design flaw, also known as defective design.
  3. If a defect cannot be designed out of a product, a “fail safe” safety guard must be installed.
  4. Products that fail to provide adequate warnings of their danger if misused

 

 

The most common product liability claims that are also workers compensation claims is the manufacturing defect. In the construction industry employees are often working with various pieces of equipment that can malfunction, for example – ladders and scaffolding.   If the employee is climbing the ladder and half way up one of the ladders rungs was installed incorrectly when the ladder was manufactured, resulting in the employee falling and being injured, the manufacturer of the ladder has a products liability claim to contend with. If the scaffolding’s cross brace is not welded correctly, and the scaffolding collapses causing injury to the employee(s), the manufacture has a products liability claim. [As a side note: There were so many subrogation claims from work comp insurers in the 1970s and 1980s against ladder manufacturers and scaffolding manufacturers, that some went bankrupt, but others improved their product quality to a much higher level, resulting in much safer equipment]. Not to get too complicated, but the locking mechanisms on casters on the scaffolding can also fail; since these are typically manufactured by a different company than the scaffolding manufacturer, this would also result in a product liability claim.

 

 

Defective equipment can also lead to employee injuries. The most common example of this is the older hydraulic press or the hydraulic punch used in a factory. The hydraulic press would cut a form out of a flat sheet of metal or leather or other material.   With the older equipment the employee pushed a button and the hydraulic press punched/cut the design in the material. After the press hits the material being cut, the employee reaches in and removes the cut-out piece. Combine this process with the employee being paid by the number of pieces produced and you end up with a lot of one-hand employees. While this is human error, it was also a design flaw that was easily fixed. The hydraulic presses manufactured today have two buttons, set wide apart, and both buttons must be pushed at the same time, forcing the employee to have both hands on the buttons, away from the hydraulic press, when press operates.
Some equipment has guards that 
can be removed for machine maintenance, or faster or easier operation. The machine should be manufactured “fail safe” so if the guard is removed the equipment will no longer function. In other words, if the guard fails, it fails safe. Failure to guard is a separate cause of action.

 

 

Almost all product liability claims now have a component for failure to adequately warn. There are workers compensation claims that arise out of the failure to warn by product manufacturers. For example, many janitorial cleaning supplies work great when utilized in accordance to the manufacture’s recommendations. However, as most cleaning supplies contain chemicals, often they cannot safely be mixed with other cleaning chemicals. If the janitor mixes bleach with ammonia from two different cleaning products, a dangerous chloramines fume, which can be toxic or even fatal, is released. If the manufacturer of the bleach does not have a warning label on the bottle to not mix it with other cleaning products containing ammonia, the manufacturer of the bleach has a products liability claim and the workers compensation insurer that covers the janitor has a work comp claim with subrogation rights. (WCxKit)

 

 

The workers compensation adjuster (the employer, too) should always review the cause of injury to determine if there is subrogation – the right to recover – against the manufacturer of the product, item or equipment the employee was using at the time of the injury. If the product malfunctioned, was designed poorly, or, failed to warn about the potential hazards of using it, and the employee is injured, the insurer has a right to pursue the recovery of the cost of the claim from the products manufacturer. Now, I wonder if the insurer of Wile E. Coyote will pursue all the subrogation claims against the Acme Corporation.

 


As an employer
, you must include a provision in your account instructions that all workers compensation claims involving products or premises of another person or company must be reviewed for subrogation potential. Don’t rely totally on the insurance company (or TPA) to do this, your in-house counsel or litigation manager should take a look at these large claims to make sure the claim has been reviewed by a competent person at the insurance company and that you agree with their assessment of the potential to name a third party in an action to recover your payments — in other words, was another company more responsible for the injury than your company. In some states the damages are apportioned between responsible parties; however, in other states if the employer has ANY responsibility then there is no subrogation potential.

 

 

Although, it is much more complex than the discussion above, and involves numerous defenses, be aware that many workers compensation claims – particularly those that occur on machines and industrial equipment – have a component of product liability exposure under at least one of the four legal theories above. Your outside counsel or in-house legal department can provide more complete information about product liability claims.

 

 

Author Rebecca Shafer, JD, President of Amaxx Risks Solutions, Inc. is a national expert in the field of workers compensation. She is a writer, speaker, and website publisher. Her expertise is working with employers to reduce workers compensation costs, and her clients include airlines, healthcare, printing/publishing, pharmaceuticals, retail, hospitality, and manufacturing. See www.LowerWC.com for more information. Contact: RShafer@ReduceYourWorkersComp.com

 

 

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Do not use this information without independent verification. All state laws vary. You should consult with your insurance broker or agent about workers comp issues.

 

©2011 Amaxx Risk Solutions, Inc. All rights reserved under International Copyright Law. If you would like permission to reprint this material, contact Info@ReduceYourWorkersComp.com

 

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