Industrial workers face innumerable hazards every day. In fact, industrial accidents happen to such a degree that the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has designated four industrial hazards as the “fatal four” due to the great risks they pose to workers’ safety.
The “fatal four” include falls, electrocution, caught in/between, and struck by. Three out of four of these hazards -- electrocution, caught in/between, and struck by -- may involve heavy machinery in some way. Given the risks associated with heavy machinery, it’s vital that employers inspect and maintain such equipment regularly, and that manufacturers produce equipment that works as intended.
The Dangers of Industrial Work
According to OSHA, approximately 15 workers die on the job every day. There are a variety of reasons for these deaths, but most of them are caused by one of the “fatal four” hazards. Additionally, most of these deaths are preventable when employers take the proper measures to keep work environments in a safe condition.
Sadly, however, this doesn’t always happen. Employers may cut corners to save money or increase output. According to OSHA, the standards violated most often include:
- Fall protection
- Hazard communication
- Control of hazardous energy
- Respiratory protection
- Powered industrial trucks
- Machinery and machine guarding
- Eye and face protection
How Often Should Industrial Machinery Be Inspected?
Employers should inspect and maintain industrial machinery as often as the manual requires. In general, there are two main guidelines for heavy machinery inspection. These include:
- Usage hours: This calls for equipment being inspected every 1,000 hours of use.
- Flat time period: This calls for equipment being inspected after a set period of time, such as once every six months.
Employers should read the manuals for any new equipment they or their company purchases. Additionally, employers must properly train all workers on the job site how to use the equipment in a language everyone understands. The failure to do so may make employers liable for a work injury resulting from the use of the machinery.
Employers are not always the ones at fault for these devastating incidents in the workplace. Sometimes, an incident occurs due to a defect with a piece of equipment that occurred before the equipment was delivered to the job site. In this case, the equipment’s manufacturer may be to blame.
Product Liability and Work Injury
Product manufacturers have a legal responsibility to design, produce, and market products safely. This is particularly important for manufacturers who develop products that are inherently dangerous, such as industrial machinery.
Unfortunately, however, this doesn’t always happen. Whether due to inattention or deliberate negligence, problems can occur during the manufacturing process. The three main product defects include:
- Design defect: The entire product was designed poorly before production even began. In this case, it’s likely that all products in the same affected line will be defective.
- Manufacturing defect: While the product’s design is fine, there was an issue in the production of the product. This means that not all products will be defective -- just those that experienced the same problem during manufacturing.
- Marketing defect: This means the warnings or instructions on the product were not sufficient to warn the consumer of potential harm or how to avoid injury.
When a product defect involves heavy machinery, the consequences can be fatal. If a serious injury or a wrongful death resulted from the use of defective equipment, then the equipment’s manufacturer may be held liable for the incident through a third-party work injury claim.
In order to recover damages through a product liability claim, several elements must be demonstrated. Namely, the four key elements of a product liability claim include the following:
- You were injured or suffered losses. These losses could be economic or non-economic, such as medical bills or lost wages resulting from physical injuries, the loss of future earning potential, psychological trauma, and more.
- The product involved in your injury is defective. As mentioned above, a defect may involve a design, manufacturing, or marketing defect.
- The product’s defect caused your injury. A causal relationship must be established between the product’s defect and your accident and injury.
- You were using the product as intended or instructed. This may involve the use of the equipment per the manual’s instructions. This could demonstrate the equipment had a marketing defect by not instructing consumers of proper use in the manual.
Recovering these damages through a product liability claim may help those who have been injured by dangerous equipment recover the funds they need to treat a variety of conditions that can result from this incident, such as:
- Traumatic brain injuries
- Spinal cord injuries
- Severe burn injuries
- Injuries requiring amputation
Often, these injuries are permanent and require long-term medical care. Since these treatments are often quite expensive, recovering compensation through a product liability claim may be one of the only ways for injured workers to receive such care.
What If My Employer Is Responsible for My Work Injury?
Sometimes, an inherent defect in a product is not the cause of a work injury. A piece of equipment may function safely and as originally designed and manufactured, but can become dangerous when it is not inspected or maintained regularly -- or if workers are not properly trained in the equipment’s use.
Unfortunately, it’s difficult to hold an employer directly liable for a work injury. This is because workers’ compensation laws, in general, protect employers and workers by protecting employers from litigation while providing compensation to workers after an injury, regardless of fault.
This is where a third-party claim comes into play, because it holds a party outside your employer or organization liable for your injury. If a product liability claim is not applicable in your situation, there may be other legal avenues, including the following:
- Personal injury claim. Sometimes, a personal injury claim may be filed against a third-party who was present on the job site and who caused your injury. Examples of this include a contractor from another organization.
- Premises liability claim. In certain situations, the owner of a property may be held liable for a work injury if they knew about dangerous conditions on their premises and failed to notify your employer about it.
Injured in a Work Accident? Learn Your Legal Options
In the wake of a work accident, you may find it overwhelming to take legal action against your employer or a large manufacturing company. This is why it’s in your best interest to contact an experienced personal injury attorney who can help you sort through the details.
At Shoop | A Professional Law Corporation, our Los Angeles attorneys specialize in product liability law, but we also handle other fields of injury law, including work injuries. If you or someone you love has been injured in a work accident caused by defective machinery or another type of negligence, our team can help you sort through the details and recover the compensation you deserve.
Call Shoop | A Professional Law Corporation at (866) 884-1717 to schedule a free consultation.