Mechanical Engineer Discusses Industrial Machine Guarding Protocol


Mechanical Engineering Expert

This case involves a man who suffered injuries while operating a yarn winder. The man had long hair, which he had pulled into a ponytail while he was working. During the course of his work, his hair became entangled in a rotating component that was originally enclosed by a guard. It was alleged that the manufacturer failed to guard the spinning portions of the winder in order to prevent operators from inadvertently coming in contact with it. An expert in mechanical engineering with experience in industrial machine guarding was sought to review the facts of the case and determine the extent of the manufacturer’s liability.

Question(s) For Expert Witness

  • 1. Please explain your experience with mechanical engineering, specifically industrial machine guarding.
  • 2. What factors should be considered to determine liability for this accident?

Expert Witness Response E-057740

I am a consulting mechanical engineer with 35+ years experience in matters involving machine guarding issues. I have served as an expert witness in such cases for both plaintiffs and defendants. The investigation typically begins by determining:

1) whether a guard was originally provided and was removed by the machine operator or another party.

2) whether an original guard was in some way modified.

3) whether a guard could have been provided to more completely enclose a given hazard without interfering with the utility of the machine.

It is also common to research competitive machinery to determine the similarities and/or differences in the guarding systems which protect similar hazards. In some cases, an analysis must be performed to determine whether the actions that resulted in contact with moving machine components were a maintenance activity rather than a machine operating activity. In the event a maintenance activity was taking place (such as cleaning or unjamming), maintenance procedures (such as lockout/tagout) should have been carried out by trained and qualified maintenance personnel prior to reaching into the machine. In almost all investigations, the workers training must be analyzed in addition to the instructions and warnings provided by the machine manufacturer to determine whether the training provided is consistent with the manufacturer’s instructions. Any applicable codes and standards must also be identified and analyzed to determine their applicability to the occurrence as well as whether any provisions were violated.

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