Unguarded Trash Compacter Accident

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Tomas Cocchiola, PE, CSP ::::

Case Synopsis:  A janitor in a high rise apartment building was injured while cleaning a trash compactor room.  He tripped on a hydraulic hose while walking alongside the compactor and fell on his extended arm. The compactor was cycling at the time.  The man’s arm accidentally entered an unguarded opening and was crushed in a pinch point formed as the compactor ram retracted and moved past the opening.

Expert Analysis:  The trash compactor has a hydraulically powered ram that extends and retracts during each cycle.  A sensor detects trash in the feed hopper and initiates a cycle when trash accumulates above a predetermined level.  The manufacturer originally equipped the compactor with a cover to protect workers by preventing access to the retracting ram.  The building owner hired a service company to maintain and repair the compactor.  In preceding years, the service company modified the cover and repaired the hydraulic compaction cylinder.  Available information indicated the service company repaired the compactor and placed it into service without replacing the cover.  An engineering analysis demonstrated that the service company violated applicable safety codes and standards, and that the violations were a direct cause of the accident.

Results: Verdict for Plaintiff.

 

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