The Hazards of Stored Energy in the Workplace
Sometimes, safety hazards in the workplace are easy to spot just by looking around the space. For example, a person could walk into a workplace and see sharp cutting tools sitting on a counter, an electrical cord stretched across an aisle, or forklifts moving throughout a warehouse and reasonably expect there to be dangers associated with those things. But what happens when the safety hazard isn’t immediately obvious because it exists within something else? Or you might see a piece of equipment and understand that it can be very dangerous, even if you can’t actually see the force that makes it so dangerous. Those types of hazards do exist and they can potentially be extremely dangerous.
What is Stored Energy?
Stored energy is a type of energy that is contained within a system or piece of equipment. If that energy is released in an unexpected or uncontrolled way, it can potentially result in serious injuries for people nearby, or possibly death. Stored energy can exist in many different ways, including electrical systems, pneumatic systems, springs, compressed air cylinders, hydraulic systems, and coiled steel cables. It’s also important to note that stored energy can also include chemical reactions. Dynamite is one example of how a chemical reaction can be a type of stored energy.
One example of an accident involving stored energy would be if a person is trying to do maintenance on a piece of equipment and that equipment is powered up unexpectedly, causing the person’s hand to get caught in the equipment.
Preventing Stored Energy Accidents
Training employees in proper safety procedures are key to preventing injuries caused by stored energy. Chief among those procedures is a lockout/tagout (LOTO) program. Lockout/tagout programs ensure that equipment is safely powered down and secured before a person begins working on it and prevents others from starting the equipment up again until after the work is done. (Visit OSHA’s website to learn more about LOTO programs.)
However, not all types of equipment are capable of being locked out. In those cases, other processes can be implemented to communicate when equipment should not be powered up. Regardless of the exact nature of the processes being used, it’s crucial for employees to be adequately trained on the process and ensure that they are being followed.
Stored Energy Injuries
It’s estimated that uncontrolled stored energy accounts for about 10% of serious accidents in many industries. Problems like failure to failure to comply with lockout/tagout procedures and inadequate machine guarding are frequently among OSHA’s most commonly cited workplace safety violations.
Some of the most common types of injuries associated with stored energy include:
- Bone fractures
- Cuts & lacerations
Contact a Michigan Workplace Injury Lawyer
If you’ve been injured in a workplace accident, a worker’s compensation claim can help cover your medical bills and other expenses while you recover. However, even if your employer seems to be cooperating after your accident, it’s still important to contact a workplace injury lawyer as soon as possible. A lawyer will be able to help answer your questions, explain your legal options, and work with you to make sure your worker’s compensation claim is handled correctly from the very beginning.
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