The Wagner Reese team recently ran across a terribly unfortunate report
from Allen County authorities that said a worker was crushed to death
after getting stuck in a machine at Fort Wayne Plastics. Emergency dispatch
received a 911 call from the worksite stating a woman employee was stuck
in a machine. Sadly, when police and medical support arrived, the woman
was pronounced dead. The Allen County Coroner’s Office has since
determined that the 23-year-old woman died of multiple crush force injuries
due to an industrial press accident.
Although the coroner’s office ruled the death accidental, it is not
entirely clear how this tragic accident occurred. Too many times, employers
will cut corners on safety, at the expense of workers’ lives. We
hope this was not the case and plan to follow the investigation to see
how other employees will be protected from similar possible risks. The
Indiana Occupational Safety and Health Administration (IOSHA), part of the Indiana Department of Labor, will likely determine if Fort
Wayne Plastics was following the appropriate safety measures. The Indiana
company has been building custom plastic molding solutions for more than
25 years and employs nearly 200 workers. According to the company’s
website, “Capacity is available 7 days a week, 24 hours a day.”
Our thoughts are with the family and coworkers of this young worker.
IOSHA says various safety and health concerns exist throughout the plastics
industry, ranging from raw material manufacturing to plastics processing
but there are currently no specific safety standards outlined. However,
machine guarding, and other hazards are addressed in specific IOSHA standards
for General Industry and Construction. Businesses are also provided guidance
related to worker safety by the American National Standards Institute
and Society of the Plastics Industry, Inc.
The plastics industry employs over 1.1 million workers in the United States,
representing a substantial portion of the American workforce. These workers
are often operating machines that are sensitive to hazards if not maintained
and controlled properly. In fact, machinery operators across all fields
suffer approximately 18,000 amputations, lacerations, crushing injuries,
and abrasions and an average of 800 deaths each year.
Plastics processing machines are complex pieces of equipment that require
guards to protect employees from nip points, numerous moving parts, and
exposure to high voltage and high temperature. Serious injuries including
fatalities, amputations, avulsions, burns, cuts, and bruises can occur
during operation. Such injuries may result from guards that are missing,
improperly installed, removed, or bypassed.
Each day across the U.S., OSHA officials issue a host of citations, including
exposing workers to crushing and amputation hazards due to improper machine
guarding, and failing to utilize energy control procedures to prevent
machinery from starting up during maintenance. Heavy machines, like those
used at Fort Wayne Plastics, may likely be guarded with a sensor or a
sensor mat. These prevention and alert systems, when working properly,
stop the machine from activating if a person is in a hazard zone and the
machinery was not shut down, or “locked out, tagged out” also
widely known as LOTO.
Injuries resulting from inadequate machine guarding are of concern due
to their potential severity. IOSHA standards say that all employers must
provide an effective LOTO program and personal protective equipment, such
as eye and face protection, when necessary, whenever employees work on
or around any piece of machinery.
When working conditions are not regularly monitored for safety and compliance
per standards of the IOSHA, workers are put at risk of suffering a fatal
injury. Although it’s the least common type of
wrongful death accident, there are still nearly 5,000 people who lose their lives each year in
a work-related incident. Often times, worker’s compensation is not
enough to cover the surviving family members’ living expenses, so
they can maintain their lifestyle in the absence of their loved one. A
wrongful death claim in these cases can help a family carry on, even without
the ongoing income and support of their loved one.
Death benefits are secured under Indiana’s workers’ compensation
laws. The benefactors of the deceased person could be eligible for funeral
expenses and burial costs, as well as 500 weeks of death benefit payments.
These payments may be available in a lump sum, or in structured payments.
It is imperative that families are well represented by a qualified lawyer
in cases like these. Workplace accidents have many dimensions, and it
often requires meticulous preparation to prove negligence to the jury
and negotiate with the employer’s insurers that the next of kin
deserves a higher level of compensation. The employer may have counterclaims
of the employee’s negligence leading to the accident, and such claims
must be countered with strong facts and evidence for the wrongful death
charges to stick.
Wrongful death claims are unlike any other lawsuit; they’re often
complicated and filled with emotion. Calling an attorney to talk through
your options can prove to be a first step toward healing.
We understand that the death of a loved one is a difficult and sensitive
subject, no matter how the death occurred. That is why the
wrongful death attorneys at Wagner Reese want to outline your options, educate you about the legal
process in a wrongful death claim, and help you understand how much financial
compensation you can expect as a result of the loss of your loved one.
Contact us now at (888) 204-8440 to schedule an appointment in our Indianapolis
or Carmel offices, or use our convenient, confidential