How Pinch Points Can Injure You
In manufacturing facilities and construction job sites, there are many safety hazards and potential safety issues. Though your employer should be taking precautions to protect you in the workplace, as a worker, you should know how you can keep yourself safe at work. Common hazards at these work sites include hand injuries and pinch points.
In the United States, the second leading type of injury in the workplace is a hand injury. We use our hands to complete nearly all work tasks, so they are almost always in danger of injury. With pinch points, you may suffer a crushed-by injury to your hands or fingers or any injury to another part of your body.
What Are Pinch Points?
A pinch point, also known as a nip point, is a point at which a person or part of a person can be caught between a machine’s moving parts, between stationary and moving parts of a machine, or between any material and a part of the machine. At least one of the machine’s moving parts has a circular or rotary motion in a pinch point. Typically, pinch points include rollers, pulleys, gears and belt drives.
Machines that have pinch points include:
- Press brakes
- Power presses
- Powered doors
- Powered rollers
- Printing presses
- Powered benders
- Robotic machines
- Assembling machines
- Metal-forming machines
- Plastic molding machinery
- Power transmission equipment
If you work in a manufacturing facility, there may be pinch points on the machinery you use during your work tasks that could injure you.
How Pinch Points Can Injure You
If you work in a factory or on construction job sites, there are several ways you could be injured. Hazards include heavy machinery, electrical equipment, chemicals, hand tools, power tools, extreme temperatures and pinch points. With pinch points, your body parts may be at risk of sustaining serious injuries, including:
- Crushing of tissues or bones
- Broken bones
Pinch point accidents could involve your skin, muscles, bones, tendons or even internal organs. The type of injury and severity of the injury depends on the physical force applied to the body part caught in the pinch point. In the best-case scenario, a pinch point accident will cause only a small issue that can be treated in a non-invasive way.
More serious accidents can result in lifelong nerve damage and lead to a need for physical therapy and surgical intervention. To avoid serious pinch point injuries, you should be trained on how to operate every machine and tool you use on the job. Avoid tampering with or removing machine guards and inspect every tool and PPE before use.
Causes of Pinch Point Injuries
There are several potential causes of pinch point injuries, including:
- Inattention: If you are not paying attention to where your feet or hands are located while working, you may suffer an injury. Drowsiness can also lead to inattentiveness and a worker taking dangerous shortcuts. Remaining attentive and aware comes from common sense, alertness and proper training.
- Lack of training: Using improper work tools or procedures is often a result of lack of training and can lead to an injury.
- Lack of personal protective equipment (PPE): Another possible cause of a pinch point injury is a lack of proper PPE. Depending on your job and the machinery you work with, you may be required to wear heavy-duty gloves, forearm guards and metacarpal guards.
- Lack of maintenance: Machinery and tools need to be regularly maintained to protect against malfunctions that could cause pinch point incidents.
- Loose clothing: Loose clothing, jewelry or hair can get caught in a rotating part or piece of equipment and result in injury.
Pinch Point Injury Statistics
In a manufacturing facility, pinch points are a common part of performing your work duties. Hand tools can put your hands and other body parts in danger, and tools can range from pliers to an excavator. The majority of tools can result in pinch points, which may explain why hand injuries account for approximately one-third of the disabling accidents that occur on the job each year.
Pinch points are the cause of most hand injuries, and every year, about 125,000 crushed or caught injuries are sustained when body parts are entangled with machinery or caught between two objects.
How Your Employer Should Be Protecting You From Pinch Points
Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) standards include protections for employees who work with machinery that has pinch point hazards. Standards also exist for those working in the agriculture industry, construction, longshoring, marine terminals and general industry. Accordingly, your employer should provide the following to protect against pinch points:
As a worker, you should understand the function and purpose of every control on the machine you are using. You should also know how you can stop the equipment in the event of an emergency and understand the safety procedures for special setups. You should be trained to understand the circumstances during which a guard should be removed and what to do when a guard is damaged or functioning improperly.
If you are properly trained, you should be able to demonstrate your ability to operate the machine with all the safety mechanisms and precautions in place.
Before you begin working, inspect a machine to identify potential pinch points that could be a risk to your well-being. An inspection should ensure both you and the machine have safety accessories suited for the job hazards and that the safety equipment and machine are functional. An inspection should be documented and records of this inspection should be maintained.
3. Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
Gloves are the most common form of PPE for protecting workers from pinch point injuries or hand injuries. Not all gloves are created equal, of course. While some gloves are designed to keep your hands warm, others are designed to improve your grip when handling materials, and some are designed to provide protection from certain chemicals.
The type of gloves you should be given depends on the type of work you perform and the substances or tools you are working with. If your employer requires you to wear PPE, you should be trained on when and how to properly wear it. Common types of gloves in the workplace include:
- Leather gloves: These gloves are intended to protect the user from burns, sparks, moderate temperatures and rough surfaces or objects.
- Cut-resistant gloves: These gloves are intended to protect users against lacerations, cuts and punctures.
- General use gloves: These gloves are intended for light material cleanup and handling.
- Anti-vibration gloves: These gloves protect users against fatigue from vibrating equipment, such as jackhammers and chainsaws.
- Chemical-resistant gloves: These gloves can protect the user from different chemical hazards.
- Electrically insulating gloves: These gloves are intended to protect the user against electrical hazards like live wires.
No gloves can protect you from all hazards, and you may need to layer gloves for proper protection in your work environment. For instance, if you work around hazardous chemicals and frequently handle rough materials, you may need to wear a pair of leather gloves over a pair of chemical-resistant gloves.
4. Devices and Guards
Guards that isolate you from pinch points are the most common type of protection under OSHA standards. If you have a machine without a guard, your employer can install one by contacting the manufacturer to determine whether appropriate guards are available. Guards should be designed and installed by someone qualified and technically competent.
The equipment manufacturer should review a proposed guard design to ensure the guard will adequately protect you and allow you to safely operate the equipment. The guards are determined by the machine’s design, the work being performed and the manufactured material.
Every moving machine part that can cause injury should be safeguarded. Employees should also not be able to easily remove, bypass or tamper with a guard, nor should they be permitted to operate the equipment if the guard or another safety device is failing to function properly. Additionally, a guard should have adequate strength to resist operational stresses.
Under OSHA standards, devices can also be used to protect you from pinch point accidents. Devices will:
- Require you to use both hands on the machine controls.
- Offer a barrier synchronized with the machine’s operating cycle.
- Withdraw or restrain your hands from the danger area while the machine is operating.
- Stop a machine if your hand or another body part is accidentally placed in a dangerous area.
A machine can be stopped through several methods, such as photoelectric or radio frequency.
5. Proper Lockout or Tag-Out Procedures
Before maintenance is performed on equipment, the machine should be de-energized. Workers should not leave machines that have been turned off but are still coasting. Additionally, your employer should keep aisles and floors in good repair and clear of dust, debris, protruding nails, unevenness or tripping hazards. The floor should always be nonslip to prevent pinch point accidents.
What to Do if You’ve Been Injured by a Pinch Point
If you suffer a work-related injury, you deserve compensation via workers’ compensation insurance. Follow the steps below if you are injured by a pinch point at work:
1. Seek Medical Care
If you are injured by a pinch point at work, your first step is to seek immediate medical attention. Even injuries that do not seem significant at first can be more serious than you expect. A slight bone fracture may seem like a modest ache and bruising. Without proper medical care, a fracture could become a more serious issue for you in the future.
When you receive medical attention, mention that your injury was work-related to begin the documentation process. In the first 90 days, you may need to select an employer-approved doctor. Beyond the first 90 days, you can select your own physician. In Pennsylvania, medical records are a crucial part of the evidence you will present in the workers’ compensation claims process.
Even if you are unsure of the severity of your injury or if you are injured at all, receiving medical attention can ensure you receive the diagnosis and treatment you need. Prompt medical care can help you avoid pain and medical complications.
2. Follow Your Employer’s Reporting Guidelines
Next, be sure to follow the reporting guidelines outlined in your employee manual to let your employer know about your pinch point injury. Your employee manual should outline how to report your injury and briefly describe how to properly file a workers’ compensation claim.
In Pennsylvania, you have 120 days following your injury to report it to your employer, though you may want to report it much sooner. By reporting your injury in the first 21 days, you may receive your workers’ comp benefits from the date of your injury. Waiting after the first 21 days may mean you only receive benefits from the day you reported the injury.
3. File a Workers’ Comp Claim
File your workers’ comp claim with the Department of Labor and Industry in Pennsylvania. To start the process, your employer should send in a First Report of Injury. Your employer will then report your pinch point injury to the insurance company.
4. Receive Your Claim Approval or Denial
Finally, the insurance company has 21 days to accept or reject your claim. If your claim is approved, you will begin receiving workers’ comp benefits. Not every claim is approved, and an insurance company may deny a claim for several reasons, such as:
- Failure to meet the statute of limitations
- Failure to seek medical attention
- Intoxication during the accident
If your claim is denied, you have the right to file an appeal. To do so, you may want to hire an experienced workers’ comp attorney who can help you navigate the process and successfully appeal your claim.
Contact Frommer D’Amico for a Free Consultation
At Frommer D’Amico, we are a law firm that specializes in workers’ compensation cases in Pennsylvania. Our commitment to injured workers and our legal experience allow us to provide unparalleled representation. We have secured more than $50 million in settlements for our clients — all of whom are injured workers, never employers. We can offer you our reliable legal services that include:
- Obtaining medical records
- Defending appeals in court
- Dealing with insurance adjusters
- Attending hearings before a workers’ compensation judge
- Filing paperwork with the Bureau of Workers’ Compensation
We will manage your case for free. There is no fee until there is a recovery. Contact us at Frommer D’Amico for a free consultation if you have been injured by a pinch point at work.