Thomas Cocchiola, P.E., CSP, Mechanical Engineer
Case Synopsis: A maintenance worker sustained severe head injuries while assessing the extent of a jam in the scrap conveyor feed chute of an automated metalworking system. The manufacturer designed the system to operate continuously; however, operators routinely experienced jams that interrupted production. The system was equipped with a window to monitor the flow of scrap material through the conveyor feed chute, which was located under a reciprocating table. After de-energizing and shutting down the machine, the maintenance worker knelt down and looked through the feed chute window. Unfortunately, the table unexpectedly reciprocated and struck the plaintiff in the head.
Expert Analysis: An engineering analysis included an inspection of the system along with a review of witness statements, deposition testimony, and operating and maintenance manuals. Witness testimony indicated that the table reciprocated when a co-worker activated a control. Manufacturers’ representatives testified that the table should not have reciprocated when the control was activated. Testimony indicated a malfunction caused the table to reciprocate. The analysis demonstrated that the manufacturer failed to assess and reduce risks in accordance with applicable ANSI safety standards. The manufacturer did not furnish a safety mat to prevent hazardous movements when a worker assessed scrap jams. The manufacturer anticipated workers would check for jams in the feed chute but neglected to furnish safeguards to protect them. The manufacturer furnished safety mats to protect workers from hazardous movements in other areas of the system but failed to provide equivalent safeguards to protect workers from the reciprocating table near the scrap conveyor.
Result: Case successfully resolved before trial.
Thomas Cocchiola, P.E., CSP, Mechanical Engineer with DJS Associates, Inc., can be reached via email at experts@forensicDJS.com or via phone at 215-659-2010.