For the most part, the tools and machinery used on a construction site are owned by a construction company or a contractor. The employees who are directed to use those tools usually aren’t aware if any modifications have been made which are outside of the guidelines and instructions given by the manufacturer.
For one construction worker, the modifications that the general contractor he was working under made to a gas powered saw resulted in a terrible construction accident.
The Kick Back
On the day of the accident, the plaintiff was given a saw by his employer. According to the manufacturer, the saw was designed to be used on concrete, metal, and masonry. Despite warnings on the tool itself and in the user’s manual, his employer had chosen to attach a blade designed for wood cutting. He then instructed the plaintiff to cut lagging planks.
While working on the planks, the saw “kicked back” and it struck the plaintiff in the face.
He now suffers from reduced movement in his jaw, TMJ, nerve damage, and facial scarring. He also claims that he suffers from PTSD due to his accident and that this prevents him from returning to work on a construction site.
The plaintiff chose to file a complaint against the City of New York, the New York City School Construction Authority, and the general contractor.
He alleged that the defendants were negligent because they placed a wood cutting blade on the saw despite the manufacturer’s warnings and also that a guard should have been attached to protect him.
In response, the defendants argued that the saw was unable to be fitted with a guard and that the plaintiff did not show any signs of PTSD.
The case went to trial, and in the end, the jury awarded the plaintiff $1,150,000 in compensation.
Safety Standards On Saws
According to OSHA, there are several common ways in which the operator of the saw can be injured:
- Rotating and Reciprocating Movements
- In-Running Nip Points
- Flying Chips / Splinters
- Tool Projection
Contractors, subcontractors, and managers can take steps to protect their employees by using machine guards and instructing the operators on the correct ways to feed and eject materials. Training is essential whenever someone is using a saw for the first time. OSHA recommends that:
- Employees use the correct equipment for the job they have been given. As was seen in this case, if someone is given the incorrect tool they can be seriously injured.
- Employees be trained on every piece of equipment they are expected to use. Only trained employees should be allowed to use equipment.
- Equipment be inspected and cleaned regularly.
- Push sticks be provided to employees so that they may keep their hands away from the tool.
- Insist that employees wear long hair tied back so that it is not caught in the tool.
A Plea For Help
In 2011, a group of saw accident victims pleaded with government regulators and power saw manufacturers to create new safeguards on saws to protect others against injury and amputation.
The group asked the Consumer Product Safety Commission to reconsider a safety standard that had first been presented to the agency in 2003 but which had just been pushed to the side and ignored. They also called upon the manufacturers of the tools themselves and requested that they stop opposing the proposed safety measures and indicated that they could compensate for the added cost of the design by raising the price of the saw.
The reality is that additional safety standards and the use of technology like SawStop wouldn’t just help to save the more than 40,000 victims of saw accidents that are injured every year, it would also save employers time and money. With fewer employees injured each year there would be fewer workers’ compensation claims and less time away from work.
Construction companies are also less likely to face civil lawsuits make by people who have suffered a work injury.