Caroselli, Beachler & Coleman, L.L.C.

Industrial machinery: A leading cause of workplace fatalites

Labor studies have shown an increase in worker related fatalities caused when employees are caught in industrial machinery. Across all industries, more than 150 workers a year are killed by being caught in machinery and equipment. In addition, more 30,000 workers suffered injuries ranging from minor bruises and lacerations, to amputations. In fact being caught in machinery was the number one cause of worker amputation in private sector business.

What industries suffer from equipment related fatal injuries?

The major industries manufacturing, agriculture, refuse and scrap waste, and construction and mining account for the most fatalities related to workers being caught in machinery.


While the manufacturing industry is considered relatively safe in compared to other industries in worker related fatalities, it accounts for the largest portion of fatalities caused by injuries suffered from being caught in machinery. The industry also suffers a high instance of lost days due to injuries caused by being caught in machinery with the highest in rates resulting from the use of forklifts and material handling equipment.


On the opposite spectrum is the agriculture industry, which is considered extremely dangerous due to its high rate of work-related fatalities. One-fourth of these fatalities were the result of workers becoming caught in farm equipment. The greatest portion of these were caused by balers, threshers and other harvesting machinery, and combines.

Refuse and scrap waste

Both industries result in approximately 7 percent of the machine-related fatalities, with the highest incidents rate occurring with the use of balers, shredder, and trash compactors.

Construction and mining

These two industries utilize similar equipment and, when combined, account for up to one seventh of total machine related fatalities. The equipment related to the fatalities were mostly drilling and earth moving machinery.

What are the circumstances surrounding these fatal injuries?

Fatal injuries from being caught in a machine have occurred due to a number of different circumstances ranging from machine maintenance to falls.

  • Maintenance tasks - Over half of the fatalities were caused while a worker was performing some maintenance on the machinery. While the machinery is turned off during maintenance, many workers are caught due to the machine being accidentally turned on by another worker.
  • Loose clothing - One-fifth of all equipment-related fatalities are a result of loose or tattered clothing such as sleeves, pant legs, or gloves becoming caught in the machine while running.
  • Removing Jams - Approximately 10 percent of machine fatalities result as a worker is trying to unjam the machine while it is still running.
  • Falls - Falls from the top of machinery while operating it or repairing it, leads to a number of machine related fatalities each year.

How to prevent machine related fatalities

Since machinery is necessary for production in a number of industries the only way to reduce the number of machine related fatalities is by providing safety equipment and enacting safety guidelines to be followed both when the machinery is running and when it is not.

Ensure point of operations have guards

The point of operation on a machine is where the material is being processed. This could be the mechanism for cutting, shaping, or boring. Guards can be placed on the point of operation to keep a barrier between the worker and the dangerous parts.

Power transmission apparatuses should be covered

Power transmission parts such as belts, gears, pulleys, and drive shafts are responsible for powering the machinery do not need to be accessible during production. By covering these parts, you can reduce the chance of workers with loose clothing getting caught in them.

Machines should have proper safeguards

Much of the new machinery used for production will have additional safeguards such as sensors that will shut the machine down when a hand is detected too close. Older machines can often be retrofitted with these types of safety devices to help reduce the number of injuries.

Using "lockout/tagout" procedures during maintenance

This system can be used when workers are performing maintenance to help decrease the risk of injuries. It involves locking or labeling the on/off switch when the machine is being maintained with the requirement that only the worker performing maintenance is allowed to remove it when the work is complete.

If you have been injured in a machine-related accident or have lost a loved one due to a machine fatality, contact legal counsel to find out more information on how to pursue a settlement and ensure that your rights are protected.

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Caroselli, Beachler & Coleman, L.L.C.
20 Stanwix Street, Seventh Floor
Pittsburgh, PA 15222

Toll Free: 866-466-5789
Phone: 412-567-1232
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