Georgia Companies Must Keep Workers Safe From Energy Hazards

A recent Occupational Safety and Health Administration investigation found that a Georgia firm violated several safety and health regulations that protect workers from dangerous, unexpected surges of energy from machinery.

OSHA cited a Georgia industrial firm Thomson Plastics for 11 violations of the administration's health and safety regulations and levied a large fine. This recent citation highlights the need for proper training on the safe operation of equipment.

Among the citations were several for inadequate lockout/tagout procedures on the energy sources of company machinery. The firm failed to inspect the lockout/tagout practices to ensure workers were performing them correctly and failed to provide adequate training for employees, which could have easily resulted in a Georgia workplace injury.

Lockout/Tagout Procedures Protect Workers

Lockout/tagout procedures ensure that machinery does not start up unexpectedly, because an energy surge can easily harm an employee. Machines that run on electrical, hydraulic, pneumatic, chemical or thermal energy need lockout/tagout procedures to protect the employees that work with or near them.

When lockout/tagout procedures are not in place or are not followed, because training is not offered, workers may be seriously injured or killed. Common energy or electricity-related injuries include burns, electrocution, bone fractures and amputation. If, for example, a machine that runs on steam power unexpectedly blows a valve, nearby workers could be seriously burned. These types of injuries account for 10 percent of all serious workplace accidents.

How to Prevent Energy-Surge Injuries

Fortunately, employers can protect the safety and health of their employees by using lockout and tagout devices and incorporating mandatory training.

Lockout devices ensure that a machine is in a safe or "off" position. A deadbolt lock is an example of a lockout mechanism. Another employee is therefore prevented from starting a piece of machinery while someone else is inside cleaning it. Tagout refers to prominent warnings, generally a laminated tag warning other employees not to start the machine, but they do not provide as much protection.

Employers must implement effective lockout/tagout procedures and properly train workers. Training is important, because if employees do not know about safety protocols they risk suffering needless workplace injuries.

Injured? Workers' Compensation Provides Options

Unfortunately, workplace accidents and injuries will still occur even when effective safety procedures are in place. Most employers are required to provide workers' compensation benefits to employees for on-the-job injuries. Workers' compensation benefits may cover  medical costs and lost income. Benefits are available to compensate for permanent injuries.