A couple of years ago in New York, a 47-year-old union worker was working in construction and was using a gas-powered saw, which did not come equipped with any guard on the bottom portion of the cutting wheel. The manufacturer even left warnings in the user’s manual about not using the saw to cut wood; however, the employee’s boss decided that it was a good idea to attach a wood cutting blade to the saw. He then instructed the plaintiff to cut wooden lagging planks used as trench support, causing the saw to “kick back” and strike his face. Because of the accident, the employee received decreased mandibular range of motion, loss of sensitivity to the left side of the face, and possible TMJ disorder. Along with PTSD, this worker dealt with many more issues associated with the injury and recovered $1,150,000 by the end of the case.
Welding, cutting, and brazing are all hazardous activities that have been causing injuries to a variety of workers for many years. Safety and health risks associated with these accidents have been in the 500,000 ranges over the years, in a variety of different industries. Some workers’ compensation claims will include cases where a worker has been left with lacerations, facial injuries, exposure to fumes, and more. There are many different types of cutting that take place in a construction zone, ranging anywhere from using a simple table saw to thermal cutting, which goes hand in hand with welding and brazing. Thermal cutting takes place when a worker must cut metals, and many high temperatures are met, which can cause burn injuries.
The truth is, construction workers are especially vulnerable to cutting accidents. Every construction injury should be taken seriously because employers are supposed to work to protect employees at any cost. Many of these serious accidents involve tools and equipment that can cause the most extreme injuries and will be life-altering in many ways. Many workers will go on to have permanent injuries that will be debilitating.
Thermal cutting is extremely popular in the construction industry; however, table saw injuries would occur with a large frequency as well. These 10-inch blade bearing saws spin at about 3,500 rpm and can create disastrous results when defective or used improperly due to improper training by a possible employer. Over the years, there have been many amazing tools to come into the construction work zone to help prevent these injuries. SawStop is one of these tools, which is a saw with a safety system that can stop and retract a saw blade the moment that it spots a hand on the table. It works ultimately to stop accidental human contact. Table saws themselves actually account for about 60,000 recorded injuries each year, which comes out to an astounding 150 every day! Many of these injuries will result in amputations and workers will not be able to return to the job they once had. Entire lives are affected by these dangerous working conditions, which is why it is up to employers to change the course of action on these matters.
Of course, there are some ways for a worker to protect themselves, which an employer should always discuss firsthand. They should use a splitter, which is a narrow piece of metal that guides and steadies wood through the blade of the saw. A featherboard could also be used to safely advance stock toward the blade without injuring or cutting through fingers. A worker should also always remember their eye protection.
The Seriousness of Lacerations
Workers who use cutting materials may face hazards from cuts and punctures from these tools and materials. Construction tasks that ultimately focus on cutting will also involve the sharpest tools, which can easily amputate a worker’s body parts at worst. The problem is, not every cut is going to be smooth and the surrounding flesh will not always be unchanged. These types of lacerations would typically heal quite well and rapidly as well. However, when jagged cuts occur, the edges around the wounds will be rough and healing time could take much longer. In 2001, the Bureau of Labor Statistics found that cuts and laceration cases were highest in the construction industry, which accounted for 35.8 per 10,000 full-time workers at the time.
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From an Employer Standpoint
An employer should always prepare employees for cutting projects and make sure that they are comfortable and safe with the work they are doing. Here are some questions they should ask regarding the workplace:
- Are there any sharp edges exposed on the tools or materials that employees will be using?
- Are there safety features involved with the equipment that could be used potentially?
- Are there options to remove sharp edges by machining?
- Are there wrappings covering or protecting the sharp edges on the tools or materials?
Employers have a very high duty of care and are responsible for requiring the wearing of personal protective equipment in all operations where there is an exposure to hazardous conditions. There have been regulations adopted by the state to prevent employees from working in surroundings where there are hazardous and dangerous conditions that threatened health and safety.
Bringing a Lawsuit Against Your Employer
If you have been injured in a cutting accident on the job, you have a right to workers’ compensation benefits no matter who was at fault. These benefits should help you in every aspect of your injury. However, this benefit system doesn’t provide full wage replacement or noneconomic losses stemming from an amputation or a serious cut injury. For this, you may have to bring a lawsuit in court to get the compensation you deserve. At Maggiano, DiGirolamo & Lizzi, we are personal injury attorneys who work for you. If your employer removed a safety guard from the saw, did not provide you with protection for the job, knew the saw was defective, lacked safety warnings, or was not properly maintained, then you may have a lawsuit. Call us today for more information on your case and what options you have!