Crush injuries in the workplace can have devastating and long-term impacts on workers, including damage to skin and muscles, broken and crushed bones, internal organ damage, head and brain injuries, nerve damage, amputations, and even death.
“These injuries represent a significant portion of WSIB claims and costs,” says WSPS Consultant Kellie Harrison. “Workplaces need to take steps to ensure their workers are not at risk.”
What are workplace crush injuries?
Crush injuries occur when an employee is squeezed, caught, crushed, pinched, or compressed between two or more objects, or between parts of an object. WSIB claims for 2022 show that they occur in a wide range of industries, including manufacturing, warehouse and distribution, hospitality, retail, and agriculture, often while working with equipment or during material handling.
“To eliminate or reduce the potential for crush injuries, workplaces need to understand what causes them and where they have the potential to occur and put appropriate control measures in place.” Below, Kellie looks at ways to prevent crush injuries. But first, she reviews when and how they occur.
Causes of crush injuries
“There are a number of potential causes of crush injuries among workers,” says Kellie, “which means workplaces must take a comprehensive approach to rooting out hazards and preventing them.” Crush injuries can occur:
- when workers are hit by falling objects from racking or from a height (such as an overhead crane), due to incorrect storage, rack failure or failure to block raised loads
- when workers are caught between two objects, such as material handling equipment and loads/wall/structure/machine
- when a worker’s body parts or clothing are caught in equipment (nip points, rotating shafts or moving parts, pulley and belt drives, rotating end drums of belt conveyers, etc.)
- when a forklift falls through a gap between a truck trailer and a loading dock. The movement of the forklift as it loads and unloads can result in trailer creep, where the trailer slowly moves away from the dock. “Chocking, preferably with a mechanical dock lock, can prevent trailer creep,” says Kellie.
- when vehicles inside and outside the workplace collide with each other or a person. “This can be due to a lack of a) training, b) defensive driving skills, or c) traffic management system inside the workplace.”
7 ways to prevent crush injuries
- Identify crush hazards in the workplace. Workplaces need to look at every task, job, and piece of equipment to determine where there is potential for a crush injury. “Look at operator’s manuals, talk to manufacturers, check out applicable CSA standards and/or get outside assistance.” Ensure that Pre-Start Health and Safety Reviews (PSR) are completed for new installations.
- Use the hierarchy of controls to determine the best controls. “Focus on elimination, substitution and engineering controls before administrative controls and PPE,” says Kellie. “Machine guarding and traffic management systems are examples of engineering controls that can prevent crush injuries.”
- Develop written safe work procedures. Procedures should address machine guarding and lockout, mobile equipment, forklift docking procedures, safe material handling, and more to prevent crush and other hazards.
- Properly train workers on these procedures. “Include skill evaluation in your training,” says Kellie. “Often, workplaces train, but don’t assess whether workers understood the training.”
- Increase awareness of the risks and safety practices around crush hazards. Hold safety talks, bring in an expert, and use stickers or posters to remind workers of hazards.
- Inspect and maintain machinery, racking and equipment on a regular basis.
- Monitor and enforce. “Supervisors need to ensure that workers are using safe procedures,” says Kellie. “Take corrective action or re-train, if needed.”
How WSPS can help
WSPS consultants can carry out audits/risk assessments of crush hazards in your workplace, help you develop programs/procedures, and make recommendations for effective controls Find out more or connect with a WSPS consultant.
Other consulting services include:
- Pedestrian Safety and Traffic Management Inspection
- Material Handling Process Review and Action Plan
- Technical Awareness & Inspection of Steel Storage Racks
- NEW! Business in Motion: Managing Material Handling Hazards
- How to improve storage practices to protect workers
- Nip point incident offers 6 lessons for workplaces
- 9 steps to take after a racking incident
- Safety in 60 Seconds – PSRs – Get quick tips on performing a PSR and the regulations that apply.
- Safety in 60 Seconds – Safe Lifting and MMH – Learn how to identify manual material handling hazards and how to perform safe lifting techniques.
- Joint Health & Safety Committee Training (classroom, eCourse)
- Inspecting & Maintaining Steel Storage Racks (1 day, classroom)
- Safe Lifting & Manual Materials Handling (1/2 day, classroom)
- Manual Materials Handling (1 hour, eCourse)
- Hazard and Risk: Identify, Assess, Control and Evaluate (eCourse)
- Safeguarding of Machinery: Understanding & Applying CSA Z432 (1 day, classroom)
- Robot Safety: Decoding and Applying CSA Z434 (1 day, classroom)
- Managing Pre-Start Reviews (1/2-day, classroom)
- Safe Lifting & Manual Materials Handling – Supervisor (1 hour, classroom)
- Supervisor Responsibilities & Due Diligence (4 hours, classroom)
- Warehouse Traffic Management & Pedestrian Safety – Safety Connection (October 24, 10:30am)
- Material Handling in Manufacturing – Safety Connection (previously recorded)
Check out these related CSA standards:
- CSA A344-17 (R2022) User guide for steel storage racks
- CSA B167-16 (R2021) Overhead cranes, gantry cranes, monorails, hoists and jib cranes
- CSA B335-15 (R2020) Safety standard for lift trucks
- CSA Z432-23 Safeguarding of Machinery
- CSA Z460-20 Control of hazardous energy – Lockout and other methods