Wood Chipper and Shredder Injury Lawsuits
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.
What is a Woodchipper?
A tree chipper or woodchipper is a machine used for shred 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 a small garden chipper 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.
Similarity Between Paper Shredders and Wood Chippers.
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.
How do Woodchippers and Shredders injure people?
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 and arm, or another body part from getting pulled into the machine and turned into red mist. Shredding machines are inherently dangerous.
What are Typical Injuries from Woodchippers and Shredders?
These can be among the goriest of personal injuries. Again, depending on the size of the machine, injuries typically include:
- Amputation of fingers and whole limbs.
- Partial amputations.
- Lacerations and cuts.
- White Finger (From vibrations of tools used in the operation of certain models of woodchippers).
- Nerve Damage.
- Crushed bones and infections.
The blood and gore associated with such an injury will come with lifelong pain and suffering to all victims, large or small.
What Type of Law Handles Machine Injuries?
There are two main areas of law 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 go if your son was next door helping the neighbor shred trees and lost an arm in a woodchipper.
- Safety Failsafe Devices Present in Most Shredders and Chippers.
Temporary workers with little training are particularly at risk for getting sliced up by the chopping blades of Woodchippers.
- Minorities Youth, and ESL Most At Risk?
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 a 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 actually cease or reverse the feed mechanism on the chippers. 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 having to place their hands anywhere near the infeed area. (See also, OSHA Safety Bulletin Discussing the Many Hazards of Wood Chippers.)
What Happens When Failsafe Mechanisms Fail?
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 there was a defect that 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, if you or a loved one suffered a terrible injury from a wood chipper or shredding device, you must get to the emergency room.
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.