In industries such as construction, mining, forestry, and agriculture, success depends on having the right heavy equipment in proper working order and the employees who are trained to use that equipment properly and effectively. Today’s heavy machinery easily accomplishes many tasks efficiently and quickly, but that heavy machinery is also capable of causing serious or catastrophic injuries when employees aren’t trained to use it safely. In the state of Indiana, 115 workers died on the job in 2015; in 2014, work-related fatalities in this state totaled 130.

In 2015, men suffered 104 of the 115 Indiana workplace fatalities (90.43 percent). Eleven women suffered fatalities (9.57 percent). Workers 55 to 64 years of age suffered 31 of the Indiana workplace fatalities in 2015 and had the highest percentage of workplace deaths (26.96 percent). Workers age 65 and over suffered 26 fatalities (22.61 percent), and workers 45 to 54 years of age suffered 21 work-related deaths (18.26 percent) in 2015. Five workers under the age of 20 also suffered job-related fatalities in Indiana in 2015.

Nonfatal workplace injuries and illnesses were suffered by 3.8 of every 100 workers in Indiana in 2015 – almost one of every twenty-five employees in the state. If you are employed in Indiana and you sustain a work-related injury, what are your rights and options? What’s your legal recourse? The particulars and details of every job-related accident and injury are different, so injured workers in Southern Indiana will need the precise legal guidance and advice that an experienced Evansville personal injury attorney can provide after a review of the accident and injury.

Most Indiana workplace injuries are compensated by the state’s workers’ compensation system. Generally speaking, under workers’ compensation, an injured worker does not have to prove that anyone caused a work-related injury by acting negligently. In most cases, an injured worker only has to prove that an accident and injury happened in the course and scope of the worker’s employment. However, in some narrowly limited circumstances, an injured Indiana employee may bring a personal injury claim outside of the state’s worker’s compensation system. You may be able to file a personal injury claim if you are injured at work and:

  • if your employer does not have workers’ comp insurance
  • if a third party such as a contractor, a negligent driver, a customer or client, or another property owner caused your injury
  • if you were injured by a defective product, defective heavy equipment, or a toxic substance
  • if you were injured because of an employer’s hostile, reckless, or criminal behavior

If you are an employer, you already know that it’s imperative to keep your workplace safe. Check several times each day for spills, leaks, clutter, and other possible hazards. Ensure that hazards are eliminated immediately, or provide adequate warnings and signs until a hazard can be removed. Enforce a zero-tolerance policy regarding clutter and junk to reduce the possibility of fires, tripping and falling, and other accidents.

Although both the federal government and the state of Indiana actively enforce workplace safety standards, we all realize that some accidents and injuries will inevitably take place. Workers should always keep their work areas hazard-free and report any potentially dangerous conditions immediately. For both employers and workers in Indiana, listed here are five safety recommendations for ensuring the safety of those who operate or work around heavy equipment in the workplace:

1. ALWAYS WEAR THE REQUIRED SAFETY EQUIPMENT

If you are operating heavy machinery or if you are even nearby while the machinery is operating, and the machine requires safety equipment of any kind, use it. Allow no exceptions. Safety equipment is required for a reason, and typically, the reason is that people who don’t use the safety equipment have been injured in the past. It’s always better to use or wear the safety equipment to prevent injuries and fatalities, and to protect yourself and others. If you’re an employer, foreman, or supervisor, your consistent use of safety equipment sets the right example for your employees.

2. ALWAYS USE PROPER MACHINE GUARDING

Moving machine parts have caused thousands of severe workplace injuries, such as crushed fingers or hands, amputations, burns, and blindness. A machine guard is a shield or device that covers hazardous areas of a machine to prevent contact with body parts and protect employees from dangers such as rotating parts, flying chips and sparks, and noise. Machine guards protect a machine’s operators and others who are nearby from injury.

When heavy machinery is in use, machine guarding is usually the first line of defense. When equipment maintenance is scheduled, light curtains, electronic interlocks, and physical barriers can provide adequate protection in most cases. When maintenance requires a worker to place his or her body in harm’s way, a full system shutdown is usually required. Any machine part, function, or process that may cause an injury must be safeguarded.

3. NEVER INTERFERE WITH MOVING OR OPERATING HEAVY MACHINERY

Do not interfere with heavy machinery while it’s on and operating – or with the person who’s operating it. Heavy equipment operation requires a concentration and focus that’s broken when an operator is distracted, so distractions can be genuinely dangerous. Stay clear of any moving heavy machinery parts. Touching heavy machinery when it’s moving is an easy way to get an injury that could lead to an amputation or even a fatality.

4. NEVER OPERATE MACHINERY IF YOU HAVEN’T BEEN TRAINED

All heavy equipment operation requires training, and sometimes intensive training, including safety training. Trainees must be guided through tutorial sessions by someone who has already mastered the operation of the machine. If you try to operate heavy machinery without the proper training, you put yourself and everyone around you at serious risk. Heavy machinery can do plenty of damage.

5. AVOID LOADING ZONES WHEN MACHINES ARE LOADING/UNLOADING

Machines, like the people who create, manufacture, and operate them, can be unpredictable at times. They may not always operate precisely as expected. When a machine is unloading a truck, stay clear, and make certain that you don’t get in the way. Any machine could unexpectedly malfunction at any time, and you could be the one who gets injured. Without heavy machinery, we wouldn’t have skyscrapers, interstate highways, dams, power plants, or many of the comforts and advantages we enjoy in the modern world. Heavy machines help thousands of workers around the world complete difficult tasks, and they help to make life better for everyone.

An experienced Evansville personal injury attorney can provide the advice and legal guidance that a worker will need after a job-related injury in Southern Indiana. Employees in Indiana have the right to a safe workplace, and the law requires Indiana employers to provide it. The law also prohibits employers from retaliating against employees for exercising their rights under the law, including the right to raise a health and safety concern, to report an injury, to file for workers’ comp benefits, and to pursue a personal injury claim.