Machine Guarding

Effective machine guarding on stationary and portable equipment and tools is a vital aspect of workplace safety. In addition, proper instruction to employees on the necessity of machine guarding is another important aspect of an effective workplace safety program. Ensure that your employees know how to inspect and adjust machine guarding and when it is safe to do so.   Unfortunately, some business operators fail in delivering these key aspects of workplace safety and if and when OSHA discovers this fact, the fines can mount. But more than that, employer consideration should focus on the safety and welfare of their employees.

Lack of effective machine guarding is a common OSHA violation. Sometimes the workplace many have one or several pieces of vintage equipment that never had a machine guard in place to protect workers from moving parts. Commonly, they are large-scale metal working machines such as presses and sheers – usually recycled from other industries or even as military surplus. It does not matter how old the equipment is; you need to ensure that it has safeguards to protect employees from moving parts.  Jerry-rigged and unreliable attempts at machine guarding are just that. If your equipment lacks effective safeguards, either add reliable ones or take the equipment out of service. Add-on devices include dead man switches, safety interlocks, self-adjusting guards, fail-safe switches, tripwires, presence-sensing devices, restraints and so on.

While OSHA allows some operator adjustments to equipment while it is operating, purposely defeating safety interlocks, removing covers and/or access hatches and other means are prohibited. Unfortunately, we have seen cases where the employer removes and even hides machine guarding covers so their employees can reach into machinery while it is operating in order to keep an assembly line (for example) running. That’s not a good idea and an employee injury or fatality the result of lack of machine guarding will do more than shut down a process line; it may shut down the entire operation.

Portable equipment and tool machine guarding brings to mind tools used in the field by construction workers such as saws, grinders and the like. Here too, sometimes employees – with a tacit nod from their employer – remove guards so the equipment can be used basically outside of their proper scope operation. Removing guards in this way subjects the employee to injury. Ensure that your employees know how to inspect and adjust machine and tool guards and underscore the importance of keeping guards in place.

For more information, visit the US DOL OSHA web site:

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