Incident summary: A crew member suffered severe injuries when he instinctively reached into the danger zone of a machine in order to retrieve his cellphone, which had fallen into the equipment.
What happened: A man was standing on a stepladder feeding materials into a hopper attached to a dangerous machine.
The materials tended to bridge in certain areas of the hopper, which created a void that caused production problems. So the staffer had been trained to reach into the hopper with a small stick to break up and push chunks of material into the voids.
As he was hand-feeding materials into the hopper, the staffer inadvertently dropped his cellphone.
Without thinking, he reached into the hopper to retrieve the fallen cellphone, but his arm got stuck in the device’s rotating augers. The staff member survived the incident, but he was left with severe hand and arm injuries.
Findings: The employer didn’t know it was a bad idea to require crew members to use the stepladder to feed materials into the hopper because an elevated worker could make contact with the device’s rotating augers and effectively bypass the equipment’s safety guard.
Supervisors weren’t aware of the problem because there was nothing in the owner’s manual about it. In fact, the company had trained its employees to use the stepladder because managers assumed it was safe to do so. The employer failed to anticipate that a staffer might reach into the hazardous machine while it was still running.
Following the incident, the manufacturer revised the manual to include a warning that people shouldn’t elevate themselves to feed materials into the device.
(From the Jan. 17, 2023, issue of Safety Alert for Supervisors. To start your no-obligation trial subscription to the publication right now, please click here.)