Machine Safeguarding: Protecting Workers from Preventable Injuries

The list of possible machinery-related injuries is longer than you might realize — and probably more serious. The hazards associated with moving machine parts can cause serious workplace injuries ranging from crushed limbs or amputations to blindness and even death. Since mechanical motions are basic to nearly all machines, recognizing related hazards is the first step in protecting employees from the injury potential they present.

Machine safeguarding practices need to focus on the hazards presented by these motions:

  • Bending
  • Cutting
  • In-running nip points
  • Punching
  • Rotating
  • Reciprocating
  • Shearing
  • Transversing

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) requires safeguarding of any machine where parts, functions or processes may cause injury. When the operation of a machine or accidental contact with it can injure the operator or others in the area, the hazards must be controlled or eliminated.

Also consider all energy sources that must be guarded:

  • Chemical
  • Electrical
  • Gravitational
  • Hydraulic
  • Pneumatic
  • Potential
  • Radiation
  • Thermal

Despite warnings, companies don’t always adhere to the necessary safety standards when it comes to safeguarding. In fact, machine guarding and other related machinery violations continuously rank among the top 20 OSHA citations issued.

Dangerous moving parts in the following areas require safeguarding:

  • The point of operation: The point where work is performed on the material, such as cutting, shaping, boring or forming of stock.
  • Power transmission apparatus: All components of the mechanical system that transmit energy to the part of the machine performing the work. These components include flywheels, pulleys, belts, connecting rods, couplings, cams, spindles, chains, cranks and gears.
  • Other moving parts: All machine parts that move while the machine is working, including reciprocating, rotating and transverse moving parts, as well as feed mechanisms and auxiliary parts of the machine.

Safeguarding Methods:

Two primary methods are used to safeguard machines:

  • Machine guards
  • Safeguarding devices

Guards are physical barriers that prevent access to dangerous areas. Safeguarding devices prevent or detect contact with the point of operation, or stop potentially hazardous machine motion if any part of an individual’s body is within a certain area of the machine. Both types of safeguard methods need to be properly designed, installed, used and maintained to ensure employee protection.

Criteria for machine safeguarding:

Meet safety standards: All safeguards must meet the minimum OSHA requirements and avoid interfering with normal operation of the machine.

  • Prevent contact: The safeguard must prevent all body parts from contact with dangerous moving parts.
  • Maintain secure safeguards: Workers should not be able to easily remove or tamper with the safeguard. Guards and safety devices should be made of durable material that will withstand the conditions of normal use and must be firmly secured to the machine.
  • Protect from falling objects: The safeguard should ensure that no objects can fall into moving machinery parts.
  • Avoid creating new hazards: A safeguard defeats its own purpose if it creates a hazard of its own such as a shear point, a jagged edge or an unfinished surface, all of which can cause a laceration.
  • Allow safe lubrication: If possible, one should be able to lubricate the machine without removing the safeguards.
  • Conduct proper training: All operators and maintenance workers should receive safeguard training — where the safeguards are located, how to use them, proper procedures to follow if the guards are damaged or missing, etc.

Machine safeguarding can be a complicated process. United Heartland Loss Control can help safeguard your operations by conducting a comprehensive evaluation of any machine hazards and offering solutions to keep your employees safe on the job. Please contact your United Heartland Loss Control representative today. Not a customer? Find an agent near you!