Hand Caught in Surimi Auger
Brittany decided to go to Alaska on a factory trawler for an adventure. She was a "greenhorn" processor. She was assigned the job of cleaning the surimi auger. This machine has a large "corkscrew" running horizontally, about six feet long, at about knee height of the deck. After the pollock fish mass passes through the auger, at the end of the shift, the machine needs to be cleaned.
In order to do this quickly, the supervisors had Brittany keep the machine running when she cleaned the auger with a hose. Brittany had on her rain gear. A sleeve got caught on one of the flights on the corkscrew auger. It pulled her arm into the auger. There was no emergency shut off switch nearby. Before her screams could alert a fellow worker, the auger had sucked her hand and arm into the machine. Brittany lost some a portion of her hand and forearm.The Response
Again, the insurance company claimed that the injury was all the seaman's fault. "She should not have had her hand so close to the machine." This is a typical argument by an insurance company. Basically, the insurance company adjuster argues that it is okay to make a Jones Act fisherman do a dangerous job if there is some possible way to do that job without being injured. But, that is just not right.
The boat owner must do all he or she can to provide a safe place to work. In Brittany's case, shutting off the auger, including a lock-out-tag-out, is the safe way to do the job. It may take longer, but Brittany would still have her hand. We sued in Anchorage State Court. We were able to negotiate a settlement of over $2.5 million.
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