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Avoiding amputation when sawing

Bandsaw accidents are the frontrunner among machine mishaps in the meat industry. Although the dangers of working with bandsaws are well known, respect for these devices fades with time. But even brief inattentiveness can lead to serious, often irreversible injuries.

In a specialist center for the meat industry, an employee at the bandsaw accidentally got the index finger of his left hand, which was guiding the meat, into the saw blade. As a result of this brief moment of carelessness, parts of his left index finger were severed. The partially amputated finger now permanently restricts the employee’s ability to work. He admitted that the injury was the result of a brief moment of distraction.

The BGN investigated the causes of this serious accident. Even if the employee’s behavior is the apparent trigger, the extenuating circumstances must be clarified. Experience from decades of accident analysis shows that there are always a number of causes that lead to such an event. The aim of the prevention experts is to avoid such accidents in the future.

On site, the BGN experts saw that the basic occupational safety measures such as risk assessment, sufficient qualification and occupational safety instruction of the employee as well as the maintenance of the bandsaw were good.

One of the most important points for safe work at bandsaws is the selection of employees. In this case, the owner had acted in an exemplary manner and selected a trained and highly skilled worker with ten years of operational experience. The instructions were documented.

During the investigation of the accident in the company, however, the BGN supervisor noticed that the location of the bandsaw in the plant was not well chosen for concentrated work. Situated directly on an internal traffic route, people were constantly passing by and causing distractions. The BGN recommended three measures to the company to prevent future accidents on bandsaws, which were implemented immediately:

  • Relocation of the workplace. There is now less distraction at the new, quieter location.
  • Additional occupational safety training. All employees who work at bandsaws received instruction about the accident and its consequences – as well as what protective measures must be taken.
  • Updating of the risk assessment for this activity to include the accident.

The protective measures derived from the accident are thus applied at two levels. First, there is situational prevention, which involves the safe design of the workplace: placing the saw in a quieter place reduced the risk of distraction. Second, the risk assessment emphasized how training about the procedure must raise the awareness of users to the great risks of working with bandsaws.

Is one-time instruction enough? The answer is no, it’s not that simple. To reflect on habits and counter the dwindling awareness of danger that occurs over time, bandsaw operators must take regular refresher courses.

Talking about hazards and errors is an important method of preventing accidents. The BGN provides companies with short briefing sessions about stationary bandsaws to resensitize employees to handling this machinery (available by e-mailing them at medienbestellung@bgn.de). They are asked to describe what they consider to be important, what the dangers are and how they must be dealt with. Topics of these short sessions are safety devices (which are overridden time and again), correct work at the bandsaw, cleaning and mounting as well as dangerous working situations.

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