Protecting Your Manufacturing Company from Personal Injury Claims

Most manufacturing firms utilize machinery and equipment that can be dangerous if not used properly. Although most work-related injury claims are covered under Michigan's Workers Compensation Act, some work injuries can expose the employer to civil actions for damages. This article provides some general suggestions about measures you can take to provide some level of protection from this type of liability.

Development of Machine/Equipment Maintenance Schedule

Most machines or equipment which are used in the manufacturing industry generally come with an operating manual that contains a maintenance schedule. In many cases, the manufacturer's recommended maintenance schedule calls for scheduled maintenance at intervals that are more frequent than may be necessary. Electing to conduct the scheduled maintenance at less frequent intervals is a business decision that should be made with the advice and recommendation of the maintenance manager. However, any of the manufacturer's recommended maintenance schedule items which relate to maintenance of components of the machine which effect safety should be strictly adhered to.

Accordingly, we recommend that you review the maintenance schedules in the operating manuals for each machine or piece of equipment that is used in your shop. The purpose of this review is to identify those items in the maintenance schedule which directly relate to safety issues. Once these items are identified, we recommend that a master maintenance schedule and log be developed based on the manufacturer's recommendations. The master maintenance log would be maintained by the plant manager or maintenance manager who would ensure that the regular required maintenance is completed. We recommend that a maintenance log be affixed to each machine so that the shift managers can periodically review the log to further ensure that all maintenance is completed.

Notification of Defects or Malfunctions

We recommend that you adopt a procedure to immediately notify all machine manufacturers of any defects or malfunctions. This procedure could be included in whatever procedure is currently in place for ordering or requesting machine maintenance. For example, you could require that a copy of all machine maintenance orders be submitted to the office for review. Your maintenance manager could then review the order and determine if the order relates to a defect or malfunction in the machine. In appropriate cases, a form letter could be sent to the manufacturer and a copy placed in the file for that machine. This will help ensure that the machine manufacturer is placed on notice of all potential defects.

Machine Doors

All machine doors which do not need to be regularly accessed by the operator should be locked with a padlock if possible. Shift managers should retain the keys and provide them to operators only as necessary. This should be done even if the machine is equipped with a limit switch or some other safety mechanism. This solution may not be practicable if the door needs to be opened on a regular basis. If this is not practical, it is important that all limit switches or other safety features be checked regularly.

Employee Manuals

We recommend that your conduct a thorough review of your employee manuals and policies and be sure the sections that deal with safety be as inclusive as possible. Do not assume any common sense in the review of these policies. We further recommend that you purchase stickers with standard warnings on them that can be placed on the machines in the shop. A general warning label that says something to the effect of "DO NOT PLACE HANDS, FACE, BODY IN MACHINE WHILE ON" is sufficient. Similar warning labels could be developed as needed.

These types of safety practices are relatively inexpensive and provide a significant amount of liability protection.

Categories: Business Services