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| Chaffin Luhana LLP

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OHSA) recently cited New Jersey employer Mister Cookie Face LLC for safety violations after an employee suffered an amputated fingertip while trying to fix a jammed machine. The company faces a potential fine of $103,476.

Company Failed to Lockout Machines

The sanitation worker was servicing one of the machines, trying to clear a jam, when the machine unexpectedly turned on. The employee suffered a finger fracture and a fingertip amputation. The incident occurred in June 2018, and OSHA launched an investigation after that.

The administration cited Mister Cookie for 10 serious violations, one repeat violation and one non-serious violation. One of the violations was for failing to lockout machines to prevent unintentional startup during servicing. Others were for failing to make sure the employees were wearing protective equipment like safety glasses and hand protection, and for failing to provide an eyewash station for employees using corrosive chemicals. Finally, OSHA cited the company for exposing employees—particularly those who cleaned up after the accident—to bloodborne pathogens.

“This injury could have been avoided with worker training and the use of lockout/tagout procedures,” said OSHA Marlton Area Office Director Paula Dixon-Roderick.

Mister Cookie Face is owned by Fieldbrook Foods, a leading ice cream producer.

Companies Responsible for Lockout/Tagout Procedures

OSHA provides guidelines on controlling what they refer to as “hazardous energy,” which is energy that is not properly controlled and can thus cause injury. During service and maintenance work on machines and equipment, an unexpected startup or release of stored energy can result in serious injury or even death to workers.

Injuries that may occur because of hazardous energy include:

  • Electrocution
  • Burns
  • Crushing
  • Cutting and lacerations
  • Amputations
  • Bone fractures

Workers who service various machines, including electricians, machine operators, and craft workers routinely face risk of injury. These types of injuries account for nearly 10 percent of the serious accidents that occur in various industries, according to OSHA. Proper lockout/tagout practices and procedures can help protect workers and prevent these injuries.

What are Lockout/Tagout Practices?

Lockout/tagout refers to those procedures that protect employees from hazardous energy. Employers must first make sure that maintenance and service workers turn off and disconnect machinery before working on it, and that they also take steps to prevent injury that may occur if the equipment releases stored energy.

Many forms of equipment have lockout devices that hold them into the safe or “off” position—these just need to be implemented. The best ones have restraints that can’t be removed without a key or other unlocking mechanism. Tagout devices include warning signs that alert employees to potential dangers, and provide instructions for proper maintenance. They are easy to remove.

Employers are also required to train their workers to make sure they know that are able to follow hazardous energy procedures.

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