What do construction workers, contractors, and factory workers have in common? These employees incorporate the use of power tools in their work. Power tools are essential resources for these employees to perform their tasks in a more efficient manner. These tools can also cause several types of workplace accidents if workers are not careful or are not properly trained on how to effectively use them. Just like many other workplace accidents, employees who are injured by power tools on the job are entitled to workers’ compensation benefits.
Common power tools used on the job
One of the common types of power tools used by car repair shops and construction sites is air compressors. These are the types of tools used to clean machinery, spray paint, and fill tires. These tools can also be used in HVAC to help shift refrigerants and control valves. The force at which the air blows is incredibly powerful, even breaking the skin. If it does, workers are at risk of a bloodstream infection (from any debris which entered along with the air) or an air embolism, which “can cause blood vessels to become blocked by air bubbles, triggering stroke-like symptoms. If left untreated, an air embolism can lead to coma, paralysis and death.”
Another power tool often found on job sites is a drill. Commonly used on construction sites, drills can also be used for manufacturing, repair shop, and machine shop purposes. Even non-construction worksites are likely to have a drill on hand, though it may be a less powerful one.
Other types of power tools that can cause serious injuries are bandsaws, chainsaws, belts, and disc sanders, heat guns, jackhammers, nail guns, and table saws.
Common causes of workplace accidents involving power tools
Most workplace accidents involving power tools stem from human error. Two of the primary causes include:
- Have you ever repeated a task so many times that you feel you can instantly perform the action with your eyes closed? Even if you feel that confident in your abilities, you never want to lose focus while performing your work, as that can lead to a serious or fatal accident. For example, you could work as a home contractor and cut your hand or finger while using a table saw and becoming distracted.
- Another common cause of power tool accidents involves inexperience or a lack of proper training. The employee may use the tool in a manner that is not recommended by the manufacturer. Just like overconfidence can cause a worker to experience a significant injury from a power tool, the lack of confidence when using a power tool can cause a worker to become injured in a matter of minutes. If workers fail to wear the proper safety equipment while using the power tools, such as protective gloves or goggles, they can also become injured from the power tools.
What types of catastrophic injuries are caused by power tool accidents?
Unfortunately, power tool accidents at the workplace have the ability to cause either minimal or severe injuries for workers. One of the more dangerous types of injuries that workers can sustain is an electric shock. If the tool is not powered correctly, improperly grounded, or operated near water, there is a risk of shock or electrocution. An electric shock has the potential to cause significant injury to a person’s internal organs without the person being aware. It can also cause internal scarring which can affect multiple bodily systems.
Another common type of injury caused by power tool accidents is traumatic amputation. This type of injury can occur when workers are operating power tools such as table saws and nail guns. If workers are not careful, they can amputate a finger or another part of their limb.
Burns are another serious injury caused by power tools. When workers use power tools like heat guns or electric tools, they can experience severe burns if the power tool combusts while the worker is using it, or if it shoots off sparks
Workers are also at risk of suffering from traumatic brain injuries when they become part of forceful blasts from power tools like jackhammers or air compressors. Workers are also at risk of suffering from puncture wounds or fractures.
Can employers be held liable for workplace accidents involving power tools?
Generally speaking, it should not matter why you were injured while using a power tool. (There are exceptions, which we will discuss below.) Workers’ compensation is a no-fault system, so you can file a claim for benefits if you get hurt.
In some cases, however, filing for workers’ comp may not be best for you. If you are not eligible for benefits, or if your injury was caused by a co-worker who was under the influence, you will need to file a personal injury lawsuit instead. Employers have a duty to their workers to provide a safe working environment for all of their workers. Part of maintaining that safety element in the workplace is to ensure that workers have access to safe, appropriate tools for the jobs that they are required to perform. Other acts that the employer should take to ensure that are operating with safe power tools and equipment are to properly train on how to properly use and maintain power tools, supply with the proper personal protective equipment (PPE), and providing with adequate resources and time to properly inspect all power tools.
Who is liable if a power tool is defective?
Manufacturers have an obligation to ensure that their products are safe for use. They can help prevent any injuries to the consumer by taking specific actions like issuing warning labels and written instructions for use with their products. If it is discovered that the power tools were defective, the manufacturing company, as well as the distributor and/or retailer, could possibly be held liable for any injuries in a product liability case.
At Wagner & Wagner Attorneys at Law, we pride ourselves on being accessible, knowledgeable, and, most importantly, trustworthy. We genuinely want to better our community and help injured workers in every way possible. If you need help after suffering a catastrophic worksite injury, give our Chattanooga workers’ compensation attorneys a call today at 423-756-7923, or fill out our contact form. We represent injured workers in and around Chattanooga, Cleveland, and North Georgia.
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