Manufacturing is essential for meeting high commercial and industrial demands. Large machines strategically cut, assemble, and packages many of the items we rely on. Working around these machines, however, can be risky. One of the most devastating injuries manufacturers sustain on the job are amputations — the loss of a body part.
When a worker loses a finger, or worse, a limb, he or she will likely never be able to perform the same duties again. This often occurs when a worker gets a hand or finger stuck in a rotating machine or accidentally comes in contact with a saw or other sharp object.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2018, approximately 5,920 private-sector employees across the United States sustained amputations. Workers who sustained amputations on the job, surprisingly, only spent an average of 31 days away from work.
OSHA's Emphasis on Amputations in Manufacturing
The Occupation Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) recently updated its National Emphasis Program (NEP) on amputations in manufacturing to "identify and reduce or eliminate" manufacturing hazards that can lead to such devastating injuries.
"OSHA’s enforcement history shows that employees are often injured when machinery or equipment is not properly guarded or maintained. This NEP targets industrial and manufacturing workplaces having machinery and equipment that can potentially cause amputations," OSHA stated in the program.
In the NEP, OSHA cites these key provisions that are critical for preventing amputations:
- Recording and Reporting Occupational Injuries and Illnesses (29 CFR Part 1904): Requires employers to record and report injuries, deaths, and illnesses on the job.
- General Environment Controls/Control of Hazardous Energy (29 CFR Part 1910, Subpart J): Requires lockout and tagout procedures to prevent injuries caused when a machine suddenly and unexpectedly starts up.
- Machinery and Machine Guarding (29 CFR Part 1910, Subpart O): Requires methods for protecting workers from machine hazards during operation, including in-running nip points and rotating parts.
- Hand and Portable Powered Tools & Other Hand-Held Equipment (29 CFR Part 1910, Subpart P): Requires that all portable tools and equipment be properly maintained, cleaned, and kept in safe-working condition.
What are my options if I sustained an amputation?
If you lost a body part in a manufacturing accident, you're likely eligible for workers' compensation. If you're able to return to work after receiving medical treatment, you may not be able to perform your job duties the same way you did prior to your injury.
Under the Pennsylvania Workers' Compensation Act, you may be entitled to partial disability benefits. Once the judge handling your workers' compensation case determines that you may be able to perform some of your duties (or modified duties), you may receive wages two-thirds of the difference in pay. For example, if you earned an average of $1,000 per week prior to your injury, and an average of $700 after returning to work, partial disability would pay you $200 each week. Payments under partial disability are spread out over a maximum of 500 weeks, which may not be consecutive.
Under Section 306(c) of the Pennsylvania Workers' Compensation Act, specific loss benefits may be available depending on which body part was amputated. For example, if a worker amputated only the distal phalange of the index finger (as outlined in the dismemberment chart), he or she may choose not to take time off from work. Depending on the severity of dismemberment, a worker may be eligible for specific loss benefits, despite no loss of wages.
If you can never return to work due to your injury, you may be entitled to total disability benefits, which pays two-thirds of your average weekly wages over 500 weeks. For example, if you earned an average of $1,000 per week prior to your injury, total disability benefits would pay you between $600 and $700 per week. The insurance company responsible for issuing disability benefits may attempt to place a cap on how many weeks a worker can be paid. An experienced workers' compensation attorney can advocate for indefinite disability payments.
To find out which legal options are available to you, it's best to consult with an experienced Philadelphia workers' compensation attorney who knows how the system works. To learn more, contact the Law Offices Of Richard A. Jaffe, LLC and schedule a free consultation with our legal team.