Oregon OSHA Health and Safety


December 2015

Safety Notes

Accident Report

  • Incident | Amputation
  • Business | Food processing
  • Employee | Sanitation worker

Sanitation worker loses four fingers removing potatoes from a cutting machine.

How the accident happened

A sanitation worker’s palm and four fingers on her right hand were amputated when she reached into the small, unguarded opening of a cutting machine to remove clogged potatoes.

The company’s No. 2 processing line had been shut down for cleaning and Gabriela (not her real name), a sanitation worker, was spraying the equipment with a hose and cleaning it with a chemical rinse. The company mechanic had locked out the line’s cutting machine and removed the machine’s guard and knife blade. Gabriela had also locked out the machine’s intake and the outtake augers. When she helped the mechanic lift up the lid on the intake auger, they discovered that it was clogged with potatoes.

Another sanitation worker and two senior drum operators were working nearby. To help Gabriela and the mechanic clear the potatoes clogging the intake auger, the drum operators decided to remove a small lid on the outtake auger and place it under the cutter discharge chute, then restart the line. They told Gabriela and the mechanic to remove their locks on the intake and outtake augers. The other sanitation worker asked the drum operators to replace the cutter guard and lid, but one of them said it wasn’t necessary; he told everyone to stay out of the area and he started the line.


Depiction of worker putting hand inside machine
Illustration: Patricia Young

As the clogged potatoes spilled out of the cutter onto the auger lid, one of the drum operators used a hose to wash them away. While they were waiting for the line to clear, Gabriela asked him if she could take over hosing the potatoes off the lid, and he gave her the hose.

Gabriela continued washing potatoes off the lid and, after about 10 minutes, she noticed that some were stuck inside a six-inch by three-inch opening that housed four three-inch by five-inch paddles spinning at 1,750 rpm. When she reached into the opening with her right hand to clear the potatoes, she touched the spinning paddles, which cut off four fingers and part of her palm.

Staff rushed to help when they heard her screaming and provided first aid until the emergency responders arrived.



There were three serious violations involving the
control of hazardous energy:

If you want to receive the Resource Newsletter, sign up for future issues here.

Reprinting, excerpting, or plagiarizing any part of this publication is fine with us. Please send us a copy of your publication or inform the Resource editor as a courtesy. If you have questions about the information in Resource, please call 503-378-3272.

For general information, technical answers, or information about Oregon OSHA services, please call 503-378-3272 or toll-free within Oregon, 800-922-2689.