Defectively designed machines account for hundreds of injuries to workers each year. Unfortunately, unguarded machine hazards can result in lost limbs, crush injuries and even death. We currently represent a family in a wrongful death action against the original manufacturer of the machine and an entity that modified the subject machine years after it was placed in the stream of commerce. Because machines can be in operation for fifty or more years, it’s very important to ascertain whether the machine has been modified to determine if the modifier has any liability with respect to the injury or death.
There are three things that proper design of a machine must consider. The first deals with designing to eliminate a defect in order to prevent a hazard. If the hazard can’t be designed out, then the hazard must be guarded. There must also be a warning. The subject machine’s original design in our case was defective in that it left a dangerous entrapment hazard unguarded. Entrapment hazards must be eliminated or effectively guarded before a machine is placed in the stream of commerce. Machine and OSHA standards mandate this requirement. Original manufacturers and designers have a duty to conduct a safety analysis to identify a hazard and either eliminate it or guard from the hazard. When original manufacturers and designs fail to perform a safety analysis, and an unguarded hazard exists, machine operators can be severely injured or killed. Because machines have long shelf lives and are commonly sold numerous times, it’s always necessary and very important to consider whether a previous owner or another entity modified the machine in question.
Modifiers of machines have a duty to modify the machine in a reasonable manner. In the case we are currently handling, the modifier refurbished the same hazard the original manufacturer left unguarded. Additionally, the modification actually enhanced the hazard by requiring the machine operator to clean the machine while it was in operation. The modifier, even if it does not enhance the hazard, should still perform a safety analysis. All identified hazards should be eliminated, guarded and/or warned against. The modifier should also inform the owner of the need to eliminate hazards to users and operators. Failure to act can result in legal liability. If you need more information you can contact Kendall Dunson in our firm at 800-898-2034 or by email at Kendall.Dunson@beasleyallen.com.
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