Amputation Injury Spike in MN Has Authorities Worried

Source: auremar - 123RF

St. Paul, MN — Responding to a recent spike of amputation injuries in the state, Minnesota OSHA is urging employers to assess workplace risks and take corrective actions.

The National Safety Council’s Safety + Health reports that MNOSHA has received 15 notifications of amputation injuries – mostly to workers’ hands and fingers – since Oct. 1, the Minnesota Department of Labor and Industry states in a June 19 press release.

On average, MNOSHA investigates 13 such injuries a year.

Amputations are most common when machines, mechanical equipment, and power tools are unguarded or inadequately guarded, according to MNOSHA.

Risk can increase when mechanical motions of machines, tools or equipment involve rotating, reciprocating, traversing, cutting, punching, shearing and bending.

Machine guarding is a perennial fixture on OSHA’s annual list of the Top 10 most frequently cited workplace safety violations. It ranked ninth in fiscal year 2018 after coming in at No. 8 in FY 2017 – accounting for more than 4,000 violations over both years.

Machinery-related hazards include not only the risk of amputation or body parts and clothing getting caught in equipment but also workers being hit by flying chips of material and sparks.

The four general types of guards, according to OSHA, are fixed, interlocked, adjustable and self-adjusting. These guards should:

  • Conform to or surpass applicable regulations.
  • Prevent worker body parts from making contact with the point of operation, “danger zones” or any other hazardous moving parts.
  • Be a permanent part of the machine (not easily removed or tampered with).
  • Be strong and durable.
  • Not interfere with the operation of a machine, or weaken its structure or other equipment.
  • Be properly designed for the machine and the job.
  • Not create additional hazards, such as sharp or jagged edges.
  • Ensure objects can’t fall into moving parts.
  • Be resistant to corrosion and fire.

An operator should be able to turn off the power “without leaving his position at the point of operation,” OSHA says on its Machine Guarding eTool website.