Mechanical structures such as rotating shafts, belt pulley systems, sprockets and cables pose a significant risk of injury by entrapment and entanglement. Incidents involving machinery can result in physical damage ranging from minor cuts to catastrophic or fatal injuries.
Between 2000 and 2010, at least 92 deaths resulted from people becoming trapped in and between machines in Australia (excluding WA). The age group most at risk for injuries involving machinery is 50 to 59 years and approximately 25 per cent of fatalities involving machinery allegedly occur while performing maintenance or repairs on machines.
Becoming entrapped or entangled with a mechanical device may cause:
A person may be seriously injured or killed by machinery in a number of ways:
You may be able to claim compensation for an injury if it resulted from someone else’s negligence or carelessness. Negligence may arise in a variety of settings.
If you suffer injuries as a result of working with machinery, you may be able to claim compensation from your employer. Employers must provide proper and adequate means for employees to carry out their work. This includes:
If you are injured because your employer neglects to provide safe systems of work, equipment or a safe environment, you may be able to sue for personal injury compensation. This includes injuries incurred over a long period of time, late onset injuries, and aggravations of pre-existing injuries.
Examples: Jeff sustains two compound fractures to his arm and serious hand injuries while sweeping with a hand brush under a machine in operation. He reaches under a belt and pulley system on the machine with his hand brush when his hand is caught and pulled into the moving parts. Although there is a safety guard on the machine it did not sufficiently cover the hazard and some of the moving parts were not guarded at all. Jeff’s employer had not instituted safety protocols requiring machines to be switched off before any cleaning around them is undertaken. Jeff can claim compensation from his employer for his personal injuries.
Rick sustains a crush injury to his hand when moving mechanical parts catch his bracelet and pull his hand into a rotating shaft. Rick’s employer prohibits the wearing of any jewellery and loose clothing to work to minimise risk associated with entanglement. Rick is aware of the rule but ignores it. Rick would not be able to claim compensation for his injuries as they were due to his own negligence. However, he could apply for Workers Compensation payments while he is off work.
Jobs at higher risk for mechanical injuries include those in the mining, manufacturing, industrial, construction and farming industries.
See also: WorkCover Claims
Occupiers (including owners of private property and public authorities), have a duty of care toward people coming onto their land. They must take reasonable care to make sure entrants are not exposed to risks that are likely to cause injury. This means if there is something that is potentially dangerous on their property they must rectify it or warn people of the danger.
Common scenarios include someone slipping on a floor surface surface or tripping over an unexpected obstacle on the ground, falling into an unmarked hole in the pavement, or being hit by falling debris from a building site.
Examples: Jeff sustains a severe crushing injury on a theme park ride when his boat tips and he becomes caught in moving mechanical parts. An unmaintained malfunctioning belt was found to be responsible for the boat tipping. Jeff is able to claim compensation for his injuries because the theme park negligently failed to maintain the ride.
Rachel sustains a degloving injury to her finger when she accidentally gets it caught in the moving luggage carousel at the airport while trying to free her caught luggage strap. There are signs warning guests to keep their hands free of the moving parts of the carousel. Rachel cannot claim compensation for her injury since the airport was not negligent.
Degloving injuries may need to be treated with multiple reconstruction and skin graft surgeries. Initial recovery can be lengthy and secondary complications such as infection may be encountered. Lower limb degloving injuries can present serious complications if mismanaged.
Crush injuries often require amputation of the affected area which often results in phantom pain and nerve disruption for many years. Amputations may limit mobility, a person’s ability to carry out normal day-to-day functions and activities and can reduce employment prospects.
The impact of visible disfigurations due to scarring and amputations is significant and can lead to clinical depression and other psychological conditions.
General damages compensate you for the pain and suffering you have experienced as well as any permanent loss of enjoyment of life as a result of your injury. They are calculated by reference to the ISV Scale which rates the seriousness of any injury between 1 and 100 and accords a monetary value range to that rating.
For example an extreme lower body crush injury resulting in amputation of both legs may be rated between 60 to 75 having a monetary range of $169,700 to $232,600 whereas a minor hand injury may only attract an ISV of between 0 to 5 with a monetary range of $0 to $6,950 depending on the extent.
To treat and diagnose and treat your injuries you may need to consult your general practitioner, consult a specialist, obtain scans, take pain medications use special medical apparatus such as a wheelchair. The expenses you incur to obtain medical treatment including costs of consultations, diagnostic scans, travel costs, medication and medical equipment may be claimed as compensation. You can also claim for medical costs you will incur in the future as a result of your injury.
Degloving, crushing or fracture injuries may require surgical procedures to reconstruct damaged structures or to apply skin grafts. Surgical or hospital costs paid by you can be claimed as compensation as long as the surgery was necessary to treat your condition.
Rehabilitating after a serous injury may involve intensive therapies as well as home and vehicle modifications and ergonomic aids. Your reasonable costs of rehabilitation can be claimed back as compensation.
If you sustain a severe injury you may need time off work for several weeks or months immediately after the incident. You can claim compensation for this lost income.
If your injury prevents you from working in the future to the same extent as you did prior to the injury you may also be able to claim loss of future income earning capacity. This is usually estimated as a lump sum figure based on the age of the person, their usual occupation and other skills.
Compensation can be claimed for superannuation that would have been paid on lost income.
Serious injuries may prevent you from being able to perform tasks such as personal care, cleaning, laundry, mowing your lawns, caring for the garden or other domestic chores. If you formerly performed these duties but are now unable to due to an injury, you can claim compensation for care and assistance provided to you by friends, relatives or paid contractors. In Queensland there is a minimum threshold for this type of compensation.
Interest can generally be claimed on compensation for any out of pocket expenses that are incurred before your claim is resolved.
In general terms, the amount of compensation is gauged by comparing what your life was like before the injury and what it is like now as a result of the injury. Therefore, someone whose injury has had a greater impact on their life will be entitled to more compensation than someone whose injury has had only minimal impact.
The amount of compensation payable for an injury will vary greatly from case to case, depending on a variety of variables such as:
For most personal injury claims, a legal action must be commenced within three years of the date of the injury. If you miss this deadline, your claim will be statute barred and you will lose all rights to claim compensation.
However, depending on where your injury occurred and who you are suing, specific pre-court procedures may apply which have their own time limits which are much sooner. If you miss these time limits you may lose your right to pursue your claim if you cannot provide sufficient reasons to the court as to why you delayed and why you should be allowed to proceed with your claim.
The time limits specified by some pre-court procedures are set out below.
For minors, the obligation to serve the other party with a Notice of Claim begins when the child turns 18, however a parent or guardian may do this on behalf of the minor before they turn 18. In the case of medical negligence claims, a parent or legal guardian of a minor must serve a Notice of Claim within six years of the day when the parent or guardian knew or ought to have known of the injury.
Depending on the nature of your injuries and the circumstances that caused them, compensation may or may not be available. You should always seek expert legal help to see if you are able to make a claim.
It’s important to get advice for your specific situation. Check if you can make a risk-free compensation claim and get free initial advice from our Principal lawyer, Greg Smith.
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Machines and workplace negligence don't mix. If you're injured, you might be owed compensation. Call us on 1800 266 801 to find out. No win, no fee.