At one time or another, we have seen woodchippers machines in action. Whether it be operated by a city worker cutting down and shredding overgrown trees while doing a roadside clean up, or a murder story on T.V., the connotation is that people can suffer injury or death by shredding using these contraptions. So mostly, we can agree that woodchippers are hazardous machines.
And even with proper failsafe devices, training, and supervision, woodchippers can kill or maim a person in a rapid fashion. Below we will also cover paper shredders and their similarities in the workplace. Some of you agriculturally located people may have seen beet, onion, or potato harvesting machines and wondered what the difference was. The main difference is that harvesting machines separate the food from the waste and soil while scooping up a field, for example. But shredders and chippers are fed by humans. And everything dumped into the machines is intended to be destroyed and pulverized.
A tree chipper or woodchipper is a machine used for shredding plant materials, including tree branches, and chunks of chainsawed tree trunks, for example. They have a funnel-like mouth, where the material is added and grabbed by a rotating set of internal, shielded blades. Typically the cutting blades are powered by internal combustion generators fueled by gasoline. However, there are plugin versions powered off of electrical current as well. The idea is to reduce large chunks of wood and organic materials into wood chips that can be recycled or disposed of at the dump.
These machines can range in size from small garden chippers to industrial, crew-served tree chippers. Smaller chippers can fit in the bed of a pickup truck. And the larger woodchippers are wheel mounted on a sturdy frame with heavy-duty tires, sufficient for street and offroad transport. City and County trucks often tow these portable machines to and from job sites and freeway cleanup projects after floods, for example.
The medium-sized rigs are usually towed behind vans and flatbed trucks for use by gardeners and contractors in private contracting jobs. So mom-and-pop landscaping companies, as well as large organizations, use these machines. But the goal is the same, the rapid and efficient disposal of trees and other debris that is causing blight or health and safety issues.
Shredders are similar to woodchippers. But a paper shredder is generally a white-collar mechanical device that shreds and cuts up wood pulp-derived products such as paper and cardboard. Typically these devices are designed to destroy private and confidential documents. The rollerblades chop the papers into strips or particles that cannot be easily reassembled. However, some government organizations and industrial businesses shred documents en mass using gigantic paper shredders.
As can be seen, the guillotine-like function of paper shredders and woodchippers remains similar, and they are both traditionally used in a work setting. Of course, there are NSA-approved shredders for government use, and so on. With 16 sheet capacity and over-shredders, the higher the risk a piece of clothing or jewelry will suck a person into the machine. Also, paper shredders come in many sizes, even for the home, which presents a grave risk to the tiny fingers of small children, for example.
Understanding the mechanical action of grabbing and pulling materials into the guillotine chopper blades, we can see why both chippers and shredders are designed with safety devices to try and prevent an arm or another body part from getting pulled into the machine and turned into red mist. Shredding machines are inherently dangerous.
These can be among the goriest of personal injuries. Again, depending on the size of the machine, injuries typically include:
The blood and gore associated with such an injury will come with lifelong pain and suffering to all victims, large or small.
The office paper shredder is among the most common objects in the modern office. Public and private home offices, large and small, commonly use the paper shredder. Depending on the need, these shredders can be of different sizes and capacities. As a result, such shredders cause different injuries and risks. The largest risk is for children. Normal shredders have finger guards against potential injury.
These prevent adult fingers from entering the shredding mechanism. They are not perfect, but they are often enough to prevent severe damage. However, this is not the same for children’s fingers. Their slender digits fit between the guard spaces. This results in horrible mangling injuries in cases where children get into the shredder. According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, the majority of such injuries occur to children each year. If you don’t believe how nasty these injuries can be, go here and look at the gore presented by paper shredders and body parts.
There are several means by which paper shredder injuries are mitigated. This includes protection against the machine shredder itself, including:
Each of these actions reduces the chance of injury, but none are perfect. Since paper shredders are necessary for the function of a modern office and many homes, keeping them away from children is vital. Damage to the digits or hands often has lifelong effects, which can be catastrophic for anyone– especially kids.
If a child was injured due to such an accident, immediate medical attention is necessary. Furthermore, parents must ensure that such an accident does not happen. Personal injury attorneys are key in the recovery process in case of paper shredder injuries. Call (213) 596-9642 to learn more.
Two main areas of law are at play when someone gets pulled into a woodchipper or document shredding machine.
So these machine injuries will be governed under the law that applies to the particular victims. For example, someone on the clock, such as a landscaper or city maintenance worker, will have a claim in CA worker’s compensation. But if it’s a federal worker, it will be handled under the less fair national scheme.
If a child loses a finger or nose in a paper shredder at another person’s house, for example, the parents may be able to claim negligence. And they would do so against the owner of the house, as well as the manufacturer of the shredder. The same would happen if your son was helping the neighbor shred trees next door and lost an arm in a woodchipper.
Temporary workers with little training are particularly at risk of getting sliced up by the chopping blades of Woodchippers.
But besides that, English as Second Language (“ESL”) workers remain at grave risk when around these machines. Of particular interest, immigrant and foreign-born workers, as well as employees under the age of 25 or small business hirees, have been identified as high-risk workers in many jurisdictions. Besides mechanical systems designed to detect and prevent personal injuries to humans, training is key in avoiding being grabbed into guillotine or chopper blades.
Some manufacturers and local laws may require workers to wear protective clothing, eye protection, and special anti-vibration gloves. Also, workers should be trained in the safety overrides (“kill”) switches to help avert injuries. Believe it or not, many injuries occur during regular maintenance. So always make sure the power is disconnected before exposing the inner workings of these cutting machines.
The use of hand signals is particularly essential when operating these crew-served machines. In addition to local noise level laws, a verbal safety warning will not be heard. Most of the time, workers are wearing hearing protection anyways. Besides the safety device or well-trained operators, can the machines themselves can prevent injuries? Maybe. Some chippers come equipped with failsafe or panic buttons designed to mitigate the possibility of being yanked into the chipper’s knives.
Also, some of the better chippers have feed control bars or bottom feed stop bars. These so-called panic bars are not the only method a worker has to save himself or herself. Some of these feeders come with emergency pull ropes that can cease or reverse the chipper feed mechanism. That way, if a worker loses an arm, at least they won’t be incinerated into a pile of red mist and meat. Next, some high-quality chippers are equipped with feed tray extensions.
This physical barrier maintains distance and shielding between the feed mechanism or “chipper drum” and the person running the machine. Last, some devices come equipped with wooden push bars. That way, workers can feed short branches into the machine and never have to place their hands anywhere near the infeed area. (See also, OSHA Safety Bulletin Discussing the Many Hazards of Wood Chippers.)
As noted above, sometimes you can sue a manufacturer for the injury. But these are hard-to-prove cases. You will always need legal help. Your lawyer has to argue that the product was not fit for its particular use, that the design itself was inherently defective, or that a defect made the product fail, for example.
And that takes money and a lot of time. Sadly, most injuries generated by defective wood chippers can be catastrophic. But it’s not just the chippers that kill. Poor leadership, inattentiveness, and even lousy maintenance are all potential causes of pulling machinery issues. Most of all, you must get to the emergency room if you or a loved one suffered a terrible injury from a wood chipper or shredding device.
Afterward, you need to contact Ehline Law Firm Personal Injury Attorneys, APLC. One of our downtown L.A. injury lawyers will be happy to guide you through the legal process as we explain your rights, duties, and obligations. Remember, these are not just labor law cases. Often, the surviving family can sue for various torts, and other parties besides your boss may be legally liable to pay up. To learn more about the substantial possibilities for your success and well-being, contact our personal injury law offices today and receive a free consultation.
Michael Ehline is an inactive U.S. Marine and world-famous legal historian. Michael helped draft the Cruise Ship Safety Act and has won some of U.S. history’s largest motorcycle accident settlements. Together with his legal team, Michael and the Ehline Law Firm collect damages on behalf of clients. We pride ourselves on being available to answer your most pressing and difficult questions 24/7. We are proud sponsors of the Paul Ehline Memorial Motorcycle Ride and a Service Disabled Veteran Operated Business. (SDVOB.) We are ready to fight.