Pinch-points come up in coversation mostly in factory or farm injury cases. Tractors, combines, planters, silos augers, punch-presses and other factory floor machinery all have points where your fingers can be pinched; thus you now know what is a pinch-point. People involved in workers' compensation, product liability, gross negligence and similar types of personal injury lawsuits should think about machinery protection from various pinch-points. Pinch points can pull an operator into the machinery by taking ahold of clothing, hair, jewelry or limbs. I have represented many people injured by an exposed and unprotected pinch point. Shields and warnings can protect operators and farmers alike.

One client I will never forget lost his arm when the spinning auger drive shaft took ahold of his shirt sleeve and pulled him into the auger. It was a very bad injury for a farmer.

Today’s Case of Interest is Martinez v. Angel Exploration involving an injured worker whose sweatshirt got caught in a belt, grabbed ahold and his thumb was severed and later required amputation. I have added Justia’s case summary below.

Here is OSHA from Michigan’s fact sheet on pinch-points.

Michigan Occupational Safety and Health Administration (MIOSHA Fact Sheet)

What are “pinch points?”

A pinch point is any point at which it is possible for a person or part of a person’s body to be caught between moving parts of a machine, or between the moving and stationary parts of a machine, or between material and any part of the machine.  A pinch point does not have to cause injury to a limb or body part, although it might cause injury – it only has to trap or pinch the person to prevent them from escaping or removing the trapped part from the pinch point.

Michigan OSHA adds a nice list of where you can expect to find pinch points. Here is there description.

What machines have “pinch points?”

Pinch points can be quite pervasive in a business and include, but are not limited to such machines as metal-forming machines, power presses, conveyors, robotic machines, powered rollers, assembling machines, plastic molding machinery, printing presses, powered benders, press brakes, power transmission equipment, powered doors, covers, and hatches, including such generally un-recognized hazards like overhead, powered garage-type of sliding doors!  (They create a pinch point between the moving door and the floor or doorframe that can strike or trap unwary people standing beneath or walking through them!)

Here is how to avoid being injured when working around pinch points.

What can employers do to protect employees?

The major thing employers can do, and are required to do, is make a careful evaluation of the machines and operations within their workplaces to identify pinch points.  After identifying them, the next step is to eliminate or guard the pinch points to prevent employee contact with the pinch points.  After eliminating or guarding the pinch points, an employer must train all of the employees about the reasons for the guarding and the hazards created by the pinch points and what injury a pinch point might cause.

  • Guards are specifically intended to create a physical barrier to prevent anyone from reaching into, through, over, under, or around the guard to make contact with, or at, the pinch point.

  • Training is required to teach the employees what the guards are designed to do and the reason for the protective barrier, and to instruct the employees not to tamper, modify, circumvent, or remove the guards EXCEPT under very specific cases when repair work might be necessary by trained and qualified employees.

Today’s Case of Interest: Martinez v Angel Exploration

Opinion Date: August 4, 2015

Court: U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit Docket: 14-6086

Areas of Law: Injury Law

Angel Exploration, LLC owned and operated a number of wells in Oklahoma. The company outsourced the day-to-day management and servicing of its wells to Smith Contract Pumping (SCP). SCP’s employees, called “pumpers,” checked on the wells routinely. Any needed repairs beyond SCP’s responsibilities were handled by a second company, Natural Gas Specialists (NGS). Plaintiff-appellant Jesus Martinez had been working as a pumper for SCP for three months when he arrived at one of Angel’s wells and found the engine was not running. The process of restarting a well requires pumpers to be in close proximity to the belts, and in this case, to the unguarded belts. While he was waiting to be sure everything stayed in working order, he dropped a crescent wrench. As he bent down to get it, the sweatshirt he was wearing became caught in the belt and his thumb was severed. The thumb was later partially amputated. In his subsequent suit against Angel for negligence in failing to maintain its premises in a reasonably safe condition (alternatively, that Angel intentionally created a condition certain to cause harm), the district court granted summary judgment on a premises liability claim because, under Oklahoma law, landowners owed no duty as to open and obvious dangers, and the unguarded pump jack was such a danger. The court also concluded that Martinez’s intentional tort claim failed because no evidence in the record supported an inference that Angel acted with the knowledge that Martinez’s injury was substantially certain to occur. While this case was pending on appeal, the Oklahoma Supreme Court recognized an exception to the open and obvious danger doctrine relied on by the district court. A determination that a condition is open and obvious may no longer be an absolute bar to liability if the landowner should have reasonably foreseen the injury to the plaintiff. The Tenth Circuit affirmed the grant of summary judgment on the intentional tort claim, but vacated and remanded on the premises liability claim. " Although we have no doubt the district court’s judgment was correct at the time it was entered, we must remand for further proceedings in light of [recent Oklahoma Supreme Court] opinion."

Additional Resources:

  • Safety Meeting Topic: Pinch Points Hellman & Associates
  • Pinch Point Safety: Texas Department of Insurance
  • Pinch Points: Safety Training – OSHA Regulation 29 CFR 1910.211-222 (This is a good summary of where you will find pinch points and how to protect yourself, including using lock-out-tag-out safety precautionary measures.)
  • Pinch Points: Caterpillar, Tool Box Talks
Steve Lombardi
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Iowa personal injury, workers' compensation, motorcycle, quadriplegic, paraplegic, brain injury, death
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