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Safety, labor violations possible after teen severs arm at work

When you read about accidents that injure Bergen County workers, the stories often focus on workplace investigations. Meanwhile, an injured victim may be undergoing surgeries, struggling with pain or trying to cope with a permanent disability. Distressed family members balance efforts to aid the victim's recovery with worries over medical expenses, lost income and a loved one's long-term needs.

A restaurant employee was seriously injured in a recent workplace accident. The 17-year-old's right arm was severed at the elbow, as the teen was cleaning an industrial-size pasta machine. According to one of two online fundraising sites to defray the family's medical costs, surgeons reattached the high school senior's forearm but cautioned that the procedure's success depended upon whether blood flow was reestablished to the lower limb.

The victim's medical status was listed as serious. The teen was scheduled to have a second surgery involving the reattachment of nerves and ligaments. In the meantime, doctors placed the high school student on a ventilator and kept him under sedation.

Investigators descended upon the workplace, including federal safety inspectors from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration and other U.S. Department of Labor officials. The Wage and Hour Division is trying to determine whether the accident occurred during the operation or cleaning of the pasta machine. The difference may be crucial to determining fault, since child work rules ban employees under 18 from operating the machines.

Other clues to the safety of the work environment will be drawn from inspectors' findings and interviews with other workers. OSHA also will investigate whether employees were trained properly. Safety violations could result in recommendations to fine the restaurant owner.

The fundraising campaigns hoped to collect a total of $100,000 for the family. Victims' medical costs can add up quickly with multiple surgeries and long-term hospital care. An attorney can help families obtain benefits and other rightful compensation to alleviate the financial burden.

Source: Watertown Daily Times, "Federal investigators probe Massena restaurant accident" Katie Anderson, Apr. 29, 2014

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