Employee exposure to unguarded or inadequately guarded machines is a common workplace hazard, resulting in over 800 deaths and approximately 18,000 amputations, lacerations, crushing injuries and abrasions per year. Amputation is one of the most severe and crippling workplace injuries, most often leading to permanent disability.
Employers are responsible for safeguarding machines. Any machine part, function or process with the potential for causing injury must be safeguarded using control methods that prevent employee contact with hazardous areas through effective machine guarding techniques. Almost all new machinery is available with safeguards installed by the manufacturer, but used or older equipment may require either purchasing additional safeguards or building and installing them in-house.
Guards and devices need to be compatible with a machine’s operation and designed to ensure safe operator use. Safeguards should be designed with the machine operator in mind as a guarding method that interferes with the operation of the machine may cause employees to override it.
Two primary methods are used to safeguard machines: guards and safeguarding devices. Guards provide physical barriers that prevent access to dangerous areas. Safeguarding devices either prevent or detect operator contact with the point of operation or stop potentially hazardous machine motion if any part of a worker’s body is within the hazardous portion of the machine. Both methods of machine safeguarding should:
- Prevent employee contact with the hazard area during machine operation
- Avoid creating additional hazards
- Be secure, tamper-resistant and durable
- Avoid interfering with normal operation of the machine
- Allow for safe lubrication and maintenance
All machine safeguards need to be properly designed, constructed, installed, used and maintained in good operating condition to ensure maximum employee protection.
Visit OSHA’s Machine Guarding webpage for more information and resources.