Failure to Guard Machinery Still Happens
Amputations and other horrible injuries the result of missing or improperly installed safety devices
Akron, Ohio, was an industrial powerhouse for many years and was particularly associated with the rubber and tire industry. In fact, Akron was the rubber capital of the world. In the years following World War II, it was still home to four of the five largest tire manufacturers in the country. By the 1990s, however, the tire and rubber industry was in decline in Akron. Employment in the industry had fallen by 75 percent, according to a study conducted by the Brookings Institution in 2007.
Today, there is only one tire company in Akron, and the economy is much more diversified. Healthcare and wholesale trade provide significant employment. However, even with the decline of heavy industry in Akron, there continue to be many small and medium-sized manufacturing plants. One of the consequences of the continuing existence of manufacturing in Akron and in Northeast Ohio is the prevalence of industrial accidents. Some of these accidents are not really accidents at all. Rather, they are a consequence of a failure by the employer to place machinery guards to prevent workers from being pulled into machines.
Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has fined at least four northeast Ohio companies in the past few years for failure to guard machinery — TimkenSteel (Canton), Gaspar Inc. (Canton), Case Farms (Winesburg) and Cleveland Track Material (Cleveland). These companies and others like them failed to train employees in the correct use of machine guards, or removed or allowed employees to remove the machine guards altogether. In the case of Cleveland Track Material, the lack of a machine guard resulted in a worker’s death.
Northeast Ohio is not alone when it comes to industrial accidents caused by missing or defective machine guards. Last year, a worker died at a Mississippi saw mill when he was pulled into an unguarded conveyor. A woman in Springfield, Oregon, was severely injured when her hand was pulled into an unguarded meat tenderizing machine. A worker at a Louisiana packaging plant was seriously injured when his hand was caught in a moving printing press. In May 2015, a Pennsylvania duct manufacturer faced $1 million OSHA fines between 2000 and last year for failing to guard machines that caused severe injuries when employees’ extremities and clothing were caught. In a telling incident, the owner of the plant told OSHA inspectors that placing guards on machines slowed production.
And what of the tire industry? Although the tire industry in Ohio and the U.S. is smaller than in the past, injuries continue. One tire plant worker in Findlay, Ohio, said that between 2006 and 2011 several workers had died after being pulled into unguarded machines. Other types of injuries common in tire plants in Ohio and elsewhere today are caused by fires, and toxic exposure.
In general, it is difficult for workers in Ohio to sue their employers for damages after a workplace accident. However, failure to guard machinery is one of the few instances in which workers are eligible to take legal action against employers for damages. Despite the challenges, if you were injured or a loved one was killed because of an employer’s failure to provide safety guards, speak with an Ohio lawyer who understands these cases. You may be eligible to seek compensation for your injuries and losses.