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.