In the industrial machinery industry, machine guarding is a barrier placed on machinery to prevent operators from reaching into moving parts and lowers the chance of injury. Specifically, machine guards protect against:

  • Flying chips or debris
  • Kickbacks
  • Direct contact with moving parts
  • Splashing of metal or harmful liquids
  • Mechanical and electrical failures
  • Potential human errors

Machine guarding is crucial to employee safety.

Unfortunately, employee exposure to unguarded or inadequately guarded machines is widespread in many workplaces. Consequently, machinery operators suffer approximately 18,000 amputations, lacerations, crushing injuries or abrasions, and over 800 deaths, per year.

Moving machine parts have the potential to cause severe workplace injuries, including crushed fingers or hands, amputations, burns or blindness. Safeguards are essential for protecting workers from these preventable injuries. Any machine part, function, or process that may cause injury must be safeguarded. If the operation of a machine, or accidental contact with the machine, injure the operator or others in the vicinity, the hazards must be eliminated or controlled.

OSHA addresses machine guarding hazards in specific standards for the general industry, marine terminals, longshoring and the construction and agriculture industries. Their regulations are fairly generic but wide reaching. The two most widely relevant regulations are:

  • OSHA 1910.212(a) One or more methods of machine guarding shall be provided to protect the operator and other employees in the machine area from hazards such as those created by point of operation, ingoing nip points, rotating parts, flying chips and sparks. Examples of guarding methods are-barrier guards, two-hand tripping devices and electronic safety devices.
  • OSHA 1910.212 (a)(3) The point of operation of machines whose operation exposes an employee to injury, shall be guarded. The guarding device shall be in conformity with any appropriate standards therefore, or, in the absence of applicable specific standards, shall be so designed and constructed as to prevent the operator from having any part of his body in the danger zone during the operating cycle.

The latter regulation allows OSHA to enforce any appropriate standard, which allows OSHA to enforce all relevant ANSI standards.

For this reason, guarding should be designed such that a person cannot reach over, under, around or through a guard into a hazard.

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