PBS reporter Miles O’Brien has confirmed that he was forced to undergo a work-related amputation while on assignment overseas after a large suitcase fell on his arm and caused severe pressure buildup in his forearm.
The risk of a work-related amputation in Atlanta is higher than you might think, particularly given if the recent citations issued by the Region 4 Occupational Safety & Health Administration are any indication.
In the first case, OSHA cited an auto manufacturer and the temporary staffing agency with which it works in Thomson, Ga. (just outside of Augusta) for a total of 22 health and safety violations – including numerous amputation hazards. According to the report, the companies failed to protect workers from various chemical and burn exposures. Additionally, a number of machines did not have the proper guards on them, which posed a risk of laceration and possibly amputation. Three of these citations were for repeat violations. In all, the companies are facing nearly $210,000 in fines.
In the second case, OSHA cited a forest products manufacturer in Homerville for numerous hazardous working conditions – including three willful safety violations that include failure to implement basic safety procedures that would prevent equipment from starting up or moving during maintenance, which can cause amputation. There were also caught-in and crushing hazards identified in areas where there were unguarded sprocket wheels and rotating chains. In addition to facing some $280,000 in fines, the company has been placed on the oversight agency’s Severe Violator Enforcement Program, which requires it to undergo targeted follow-up inspections to ensure compliance.
In both cases, workers were found to have been inadequately trained, meaning they were at an even higher risk for amputation.
It’s estimated that approximately 2 million people in the U.S. are amputees and that an additional 185,000 amputations occur each year. In some cases, these are caused by arterial diseases or diabetes. However, severe injuries from motor vehicle accidents and work injuries are also a top catalyst.
Most amputations require hospital stays of between 5 days and two weeks, sometimes more, and workers who undergo amputation may be rendered totally and permanently disabled.
Still, the amount a worker can collect from workers’ compensation could be limited. Third-party liability may be worth exploring in these situations.
OSHA indicates that amputation injuries occur most often when workers operate machinery that isn’t properly safeguarded. Most new machinery comes equipped with safeguard installed by the manufacturer, but not always. Companies may need to have their equipment retroactively fitted for these devices.
However, as the O’Brien case illustrates, it’s not just blue collar workers who are at-risk for amputation. What’s more, all workers should seek immediate treatment for all injuries – particularly those in which a body part suffered a hard impact or crushing blow. Even if the pain isn’t particularly severe, there could be a substantial risk of developing complications like the acute compartment syndrome O’Brien suffered.
For information on Atlanta work injury compensation, contact J. Franklin Burns, P.C., at 1-404-303-7770.