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Amputations Happen Every Single Day in the US Workplace

By Sally Murdoch

A Lockout/Tagout (LO/TO) program serves as an effective preventative to amputations

There are more than seven amputations on average every day in the U.S. Most of the amputations reported to OSHA this past year involved fingers, but workers also lost hands, toes, feet, and other extremities. A great article by Jordan Barab, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Labor for OSHA, states very simply something we all want: “Seven amputations a day is far too many. Let’s work together to end this trend.”

Educator Dr. Peter Drucker has been credited for saying, “what gets measured gets improved.” If there’s truth to this maxim, then there’s hope on the horizon. Since OSHA began requiring employers to report severe injuries in 2015, they have more accurate counts of amputations and other serious injuries happening daily in the U.S., and can work to lessen them.

As well as installing machine guards and providing more training for workers, Barab points to Lockout/Tagout (LO/TO) as one of the most effective ways to prevent amputations. Ensure that machines are de-energized whenever they’re being serviced,” he wrote in a January 2017 OSHA blog article.

Interestingly, LO/TO violations are consistently among OSHA’s 10 most common violations every year, but there is help! If employers are unsure about how to start a LO/TO program, free resources like the Lockout/Tagout guide from Graphic Products are out there.

Seven amputations a day is far too many. Let's work together to end this trend.
-Jordan Barab, OSHA

Building an Effective LO/TO Program

Certain industries have a higher inherent risk of workers facing amputations. These include meat and poultry processing, recycling and scrap metal operations, and supermarket delis. No matter what industry, if there’s dangerous machinery, OSHA requires employers to implement a LO/TO program to prevent injury from the release of stored energy. OSHA requires:

  • Tools and training so that all energy sources are shut off, disconnected from the machine, and locked out before work begins to prevent inadvertent machine energization
  • Training for workers to verify that the energy source has been isolated
  • A means for the machine’s stored energy to be dissipated, whenever possible
  • Readily-verifiable means for employees to know that hazardous energy cannot re-accumulate

OSHA has an online national amputation prevention program created in August 2015.