Automation in the workplace is designed to improve efficiency, lower costs, and even reduce the physical strain on workers. But, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) is warning that robotics in the workplace may increase some risks to human workers.
Though NIOSH makes it clear that additional information is required, the organization’s materials cite several instances of serious crush injuries sustained by workers who share their workspace with mechanical co-workers.
One of the earliest reported incidents, and the one that most brings to mind a futuristic movie, involved a robot grabbing the worker who was installing it and crushing him against a metal plate. The worker ultimately died of crush injuries to his chest, after weeks in the hospital. But, this sci-fi example is far from the only incident of its kind. Some other reported injuries inflicted by workplace machinery include:
- A worker who was killed when the remote control on a demolition robot was bumped as the worker attempted to straighten its power cable, and he was pinned between the robot and the wall.
- A worker who was killed when a laser-guided forklift’s forks came down and crushed him against the machine
Of course, crush injuries on the job aren’t new or limited to situations involving state of the art equipment. But, this type of injury is on the rise. The most recent National Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) showed a 39% increase in workers caught in running equipment or machinery, and a 17% increase in workers struck by falling objects or equipment. These accident types accounted for nearly 800 deaths in 2018.
How Do Crush Injuries Happen?
While crush injuries can occur in a variety of ways, three types of injuries account for the vast majority of serious workplace crush injuries.
- Falling materials or equipment, or construction collapses. Some examples include trench collapses, scaffolding falling, and equipment failures resulting in materials or machinery dropping unexpectedly.
- A worker’s body part or clothing getting caught in a machine with moving parts. This type of injury is most common in the manufacturing industry, but can occur in a variety of settings, including construction and agriculture.
- Workers being struck by equipment such as a forklift, and trapped underneath the equipment or pinned to a wall, machine, or other surface.
Of course, crush injuries aren’t always fatal. Crush injuries involving broken or damaged extremities are also common. In some cases, these injuries create lifelong disabilities and long-term pain. Some crush injuries result in amputation. Even those that can be successfully treated may require long-term care, including rehabilitation and one or more surgeries.
Therefore, if you have suffered a crush injury at work, or have lost a loved one to an on-the-job crush injury, it is important to make sure that you have a thorough understanding of your legal rights and options before you accept a workers’ compensation settlement.
Some of the pitfalls of acting too quickly and without the assistance of an experienced workers’ compensation attorney include:
- Settling a claim too quickly, without a clear idea of the long-term medical expenses and/ or limitations
- Overlooking the potential for third-party liability in addition to or as an alternative to workers’ compensation
- Being misled about your eligibility for long term disability payments or your return to work options
If you have suffered a crush injury or any type of serious injury on the job, it is in your best interests to speak with an experienced local workers’ compensation attorney as soon as possible. If you are a New Hampshire or Massachusetts worker who has been injured on the job and needs assistance with workers’ compensation or exploring the possibility of third-party liability for a work-related injury, you can schedule a free consultation with Attorney Kevin P. Broderick right now. Just call 978-459-1792 or fill out the contact form on this site to get started.