When high-powered machinery is used to cut, break up, or dismantle materials, pieces of debris are often flung in the air at dangerous speeds. When using a saw, drill, or wood chipper, even a small piece of debris could cause serious harm. The jobs particularly at risk for dangerous debris include construction, mining, and logging.
Injuries from Flying Debris in the Workplace
Flying debris—such as wood chips, concrete chunks, or metal flakes—can cause serious injury to the eyes. Per the Bureau of Labor Statistics, flying debris caused over 25% of eye injuries. When foreign objects strike the eye or become lodged in it, damage can include corneal abrasions, swelling, retinal damage, bruising, damage to the eye muscles, and even permanent blindness.
Due to the high velocity of some flying debris, ear injuries can occur if debris is launched into the ear at high speeds. The eardrum and other internal workings can be bruised or torn if impacted, and emergency assistance may be necessary to remove the debris without further damaging the ear.
When pieces of debris are large enough, they may cause head trauma if a worker is struck. A hard hit in the right spot on a worker's head could lead to severe brain trauma and permanent harm if the worker is not equipped with the proper safety gear—and may sometimes occur anyway regardless of safety gear. The worker could suffer a concussion, brain damage, paralysis, or even death if struck by a significant piece of flying debris.
Safety Precautions Against Flying Debris
- Canopies and tarps can be installed
- Face shields
- Guard mechanisms on machinery
- Hard hats or helmets
- Long sleeved-jackets or coats
- Thick gloves
Regularly inspecting tools such as saws and blades can ensure that a smooth surface is cutting materials, minimizing splintering, and dislodged debris. Proper training in operating machinery can also teach workers how to be aware of the danger of debris and how to minimize creating it while using machinery.
Even a seemingly low-speed activity, such as prying and transporting objects, could generate airborne debris that could cause serious injury. Cleaning a work area with compressed air can also dislodge dangerous debris like splinters and metal flakes. Wearing protective goggles is also always a good idea to protect against unforeseen incidents. Even in the most cautious workplaces, accidents do happen and using effective safety gear can mean the difference between minor injuries and a catastrophic injury.
If you've suffered an injury in the workplace, it's important to understand your legal rights. Contact our industrial injury attorney for a free case evaluation.