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OSHA's standards on pinch point protection

Any machine with gears, rollers, belt drives or pulleys has what are called pinch points: spaces where workers, or parts of their body, can get caught. To avoid pinch point accidents in Georgia and elsewhere, OSHA has addressed the topic in its standards for general industries, agriculture, longshoring, marine terminals and construction. OSHA's recommendations can be broken down into engineering controls and work practice controls.

The use of guards and other safety devices is recommended. Guards are meant to isolate workers from a pinch point while safety devices can have a number of purposes, such as shutting down the machine once a hand or other body part breaches the danger area, withdrawing the operator's hand from that area and requiring operators to use both hands on machine controls.

Employers should have guards installed around all moving machine parts, and if the machine manufacturer offers no guards, they must be designed and installed by someone technically competent and qualified. Regular inspections are important and should be carefully documented afterwards. The guards should be able to withstand operational stress as well as any tampering on the part of employees.

Workers are to be trained on how to properly use machinery as well as how to remove the guards for maintenance purposes. Employees must also learn to keep floors and aisles free of trip and slip hazards.

Even with these safety precautions, a negligent employee could incur workplace injuries. In such cases, the workers' compensation program can pay out for medical expenses and a portion of the wages lost during the physical recovery. If a pinch point accident leads to permanent disability, the program could cover this as well. Victims, for their part, may want a lawyer to assist with the filing and, if the claim is denied, with the appeal. A lawyer might also discuss the possibility of settling.

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