Albany Man’s Ordeal Celebrates Medical Technology, but Raises Workplace Questions

Last week The Oregonian reported on the ordeal of an Albany man, a story that is both inspiring and, in some ways, troubling. The paper reports that the man, a 40-year-old machine operator at a lumber mill, was scheduled to be released from Legacy Emanuel Medical Center after nearly 10 days of treatment following an accident in which his right arm was severed while he worked on a lumber company’s processing line.

Quick action by both co-workers and doctors allowed his arm to be reattached following hours of delicate surgery. One colleague provided critical first aid. Another had the presence of mind to ensure that medics took the severed arm with them as the accident victim was transported to the hospital. Once there, according to the chief surgeon on the trauma team handling the case, the fact that the cut was, in his words, “fairly clean” made the daunting task of reattachment more achievable.

The same doctor told reporters that he expects the machine operator “to eventually regain some sensation and make at least a partial recovery,” the newspaper reports.

The accident is still being investigated, but in determining responsibility for the man’s injuries his employment status may prove to be an important factor. The machine operator was not a regular employee of the lumber company but, rather, a temp hired through an employment agency. According to The Oregonian, he “has worked off and on for a year or so at the sawmill.”
That issue of employment status could play an important role in determining the type of remedies available to the injured worker. Most people think of workman’s compensation claims when they consider the legal consequences of a workplace injury. Because this man was a temporary worker, however, his injury may fall under Oregon’s Employer Liability Law (ELL). This law requires Oregon employers to maintain a safe workplace and would allow for a for a third party industrial accident claim against the sawmill if the mill is found to have been in violation of the ELL. Oregon OSHA is investigating the sawmill for any infractions. Because the workman’s comp versus industrial accident distinction is often not readily apparent to non-attorneys, consulting a Portland industrial accident lawyer can help anyone facing a similar severe workplace injury decide whether and how to proceed.

It is also important to be aware that employment status is only one of several factors that can be involved in such a decision. Even if the injured party is a regular, full-time employee there still may be claims against other parties that were careless in some capacity. An example would be a potential products liability case against a manufacturer of the saw or of a part of the saw that was defective or dangerous. An experienced Oregon personal injury lawyer with expertise in industrial accidents and product liability can offer essential help resolving these sorts of complex legal issues.

The Oregonian: Severed arm: Lumber machine operator from Albany may regain some sensation in reattached limb