Poor Machine Guarding, Amputation, Lead to OSHA Citations

A plastics factory employee learns a painful lesson about the importance of machine guarding.

Riddle: What's the fastest way to lose a finger or two?

Answer: Bypass or disable the machine guarding capabilities on machinery.

A Hopedale, Mass., plastics firm is learning an expensive lesson about machine guarding, but it won't pay as high a price as one of its employees.

Incase Inc. faces $51,467 in fines after one of its employees lost two fingers in an inadequately guarded machine. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) cited Incase Inc. for 28 alleged violations of the Occupational Safety and Health Act for a wide cross-section of manufacturing hazards.

OSHA began its inspection at Incase in response to a July 19 accident in which a thermoformer machine, used to heat and shape plastic, activated while a worker was removing plastic material from its cutting section.

"The machine was equipped with an interlocking gate designed to stop the machine's operation when the gate was opened, but our inspection found the company bypassed this necessary safety measure by installing a panel that allowed access to the machine's cutting section," said Ronald E. Morin, OSHA area director for central and western Massachusetts. "This exposed workers to amputation hazards."

OSHA cited Incase for an alleged willful violation, with a fine of $35,000, for failing to adequately guard the machine. OSHA defines as a violation committed with intentional disregard of or plain indifference to OSHA standards.

An additional $16,467 in fines was proposed for 25 alleged serious violations involving inadequate machine guarding, electrical hazards, fall hazards, inadequate fire prevention measures and insufficient protective equipment. A serious violation is one in which there is a substantial probability that death or serious physical harm could result, and the employer knew, or should have known, of the hazard.

The company was also cited for two other-than-serious hazards for failing to post permit required confined spaces and failure to develop and maintain a written hazard communication program. An other-than-serious violation is a condition that would probably not cause death or serious physical harm but would have a direct and immediate relationship to the safety and health of employees.

Incase employs about 40 workers.

edited by Sandy Smith

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