A science reporter recently made headlines for an injury he sustained to his left arm that necessitated an amputation while he was on assignment in Asia.
The correspondent, Miles O’Brien, would later lament the fact that he didn’t have some harrowing story to tell about what happened. Basically, a heavy suitcase fell on his forearm, causing, over the course of several days, a condition known as acute compartment syndrome, which allows pressure to build up in the affected limb, cutting off essential blood supply and oxygen. Because he hadn’t deemed it serious in the beginning, he waited far too long before seeking treatment. By then, the doctor ordered emergency surgery to remove the arm before deadly infection could spread to the other parts of O’Brien’s body.
Our Montgomery injury lawyers know that while these kinds of incidents might seem rare, workers frequently encounter falling objects, defective or malfunctioning equipment. Auto accidents are another top cause of these complex injuries. While many advancements have been made in treatment, in large part due to returning veterans with amputation injuries, recovery is both lengthy and costly.
This case also illustrates the importance of seeking medical treatment as soon as possible after a traumatic injury, even if it doesn’t seem all that serious at first.
Recently, a lumber company in Salem, just outside of Phenix City, was cited for $106,000 by the Occupational Safety & Health Administration for exposure to numerous dangerous, including several that risked limb amputation. According to the Montgomery Advertiser, the firm, which employs 130 people, was cited for 26 safety and health violations.
OSHA alleges the company didn’t have locks on certain equipment that would prevent the machinery from being started while workers were in the immediate vicinity. These “unguarded” pieces of equipment posed possible amputation threat. (This is the same firm that recently paid $7,200 for six serious safety violations that inspectors identified in 2004.)
These kinds of injuries most certainly can and do happen. Our attorneys not long ago represented a client who was an invitee to a carpet warehouse, which also served as a showroom. While there, without warning, the operator of a forklift that was not equipped with a backup alarm struck her, clipping her lower leg and causing a severe crush injury to her foot. Thankfully, the foot did not have to be removed, but the woman did have to undergo numerous surgeries. The case was settled prior to trial for $845,000.
It’s estimated that approximately 185,000 amputations occur every year. Some of those are necessitated for medical reasons, such as diabetes. However, about 5 percent stem from fractures to the lower leg. Amputations to the leg are the most common type.
OSHA reports that under the Fair Labor Standards Act, the Secretary of Labor has identified certain non-farm jobs as especially hazardous to workers. Those jobs include work that involves band saws, circular saws, guillotine shears, shearing and punching machines, meatpacking or meat-processing machines, metal-forming machines, meat-slicers and woodworking machines. Generally, those under 18 are forbidden from working with this kind of equipment.
Prevention of these injuries often involves education of workers. Employees should be appropriately trained on how to handle dangerous equipment.
Additionally, proper guards and physical barriers should be in place to prevent unauthorized personnel from accessing or inadvertently coming in contact with these objects.
Finally, workers should seek immediate medical treatment for any injuries sustained on the job – even those that are seemingly minor. As the O’Brien case illustrates, a lack of severe pain early on doesn’t necessarily mean the injury isn’t serious.
Call Allred & Allred P.C. at 334.396.9200 to speak with a Montgomery personal injury lawyer.
PBS science correspondent Miles O’Brien recounts amputation, Feb. 25, 2014, Associated Press
More Blog Entries:
Alabama Train Crash Still Under Investigation, Dec. 2, 2014, Montgomery Amputation Lawyer Blog