When we think about the different forms accident at work compensation claims take, amputations are one of the most serious and severe. Losing digits or limbs in moving machinery can easily lead to death from blood loss, and as a result, amputations require immediate medical treatment.
While traumatic amputations occur in a whole range of settings, including motor vehicle accidents, combat situations, in hospitals following clinical negligence, and during criminal assaults, this blog post will focus on those caused by workplace negligence. Employers should ensure their workplace is safe for their employees, and amputation claims are a strong indication that they have failed in this regard.
What accidents at work cause amputations?
Unguarded machinery, such as in warehouses or in agricultural settings, can come into contact with employees and lead to amputation injuries. Press machines, wood cutters, mowers, combine harvesters, conveyor belts and any other machinery with moving parts can cause employees to lose their limbs, fingers or even their lives. Employers must be aware of the dangers posed by unguarded machinery and must use guards whenever possible.
Serious burns can require amputation, and electricity is seen in a lot of workplace accident claims involving burns. Employees may incorrectly believe that a certain area is safe when it is actually live, or may be provided with faulty equipment or poor training standards.
Moving vehicles can cause traumatic amputation in the workplace. Pick-up trucks and other warehouse or industrial transport can come into contact with employees, or people can fall from them while they are in motion. Objects can also fall from vehicles and land on employees, or the vehicle can collide with objects and cause them to land on employees. Businesses should ensure anyone who is employed in moving transport is properly trained, and that risk assessments are conducted to ensure that transportation routes are kept clear of pedestrians.
Fire and explosions
If dangerous substances are not properly controlled, they can lead to serious personal injuries in accidents at work, or even the death of employees. Vapours, combustible dusts, mists and flammable gases can lead to explosions and fires. The Dangerous Substances and Explosive Atmosphere Regulations 2002 were implemented in the UK to deal with the risks posed by explosive substances and to protect workers from their effects.
What should I do if an employee suffers an amputation injury?
Call the emergency services
An amputation is a medical emergency and the first thing you should do is call 999 and ask for an ambulance. The following instructions are intended as guidance only – if the 999 operator tells you to do anything, then ignore these instructions and follow the advice of the operator.
Try to stem the bleeding
If a person experiences an amputation, their body will immediately try to protect itself and minimise blood loss by contracting the blood vessels leading to the injured part. If there is any bleeding, try to stem the blood by applying direct pressure with the cleanest material possible. If blood soaks through the cloth, then apply another cloth on top of it and do not remove the initial cloth. If direct pressure does not work, then use a tourniquet, such as a belt. Tie it above the site of the amputation. Doing so will likely lead to the loss of any body part blood cannot reach due to the tourniquet.
Elevating the injured area and splinting it can reduce the damage caused by an amputation injury.
Check the victim for shock
Signs of shock include passing out, feeling weak, becoming less alert or feeling light-headed. If the victim of the personal injury has gone into shock, ensure they breath properly and do not choke on vomit, and keep them warm. Monitor their pulse and inform the emergency services.
Take care of the amputated body part
It is possible for amputated body parts to be completely reattached. Preventing the victim from dying of blood loss is more important than finding the amputated body part, but if you can so both, then try to recover the body part and hand it to the emergency services or transport it to the hospital.
Clean off any dirt with running water, wrap it in a sterile or clean cloth, put it in a waterproof container and put this in with ice. This will help to prevent the body part from rotting but will ensure it does not become damaged by ice.
Anna Jackson works alongside unions and health and safety representatives to drive down the number of personal injuries compensation claims and accidents at work. She lives in Suffolk with three dogs and two cats, and enjoys playing Rugby with her friends, strumming out songs on her acoustic guitar, and listening to classic rock or Radio 4.