The industrial workplace is filled with machines, and many of them have sharp or moving parts that can pinch, crush and cut workers. Too often machines are even responsible for amputations and fatalities when proper procedures for performing maintenance (like lockout/tagout) aren’t followed. According to OSHA, about 18,000 amputations, lacerations and other injuries are sustained by employees who work around machines each year.
To prevent these accidents, workplaces should install machine guards that prevent workers from reaching inside or coming into contact with dangerous machine parts. (OSHA requirements for machine guarding are found under 29 CFR 1910 Subpart O).
Machine Guards for Large Machinery
For hydraulic presses and other large machinery, workplaces can install one of three types of machine guards. Barrier guards physically prevent a person from entering a dangerous area by closing off access to that part of the machine. Presence-sensing devices, also known as “light curtains,” can tell when a person is too close to the dangerous area and stop the machine. Finally, two-hand tripping devices require an operator to press two buttons (one with each hand) simultaneously to start the machine, so he or she won’t be able to reach into dangerous locations.
All three of these methods can effectively prevent accidents, so each workplace will need to determine what kind of guard makes the most sense for its work environment. Some machines, for example, may be difficult to enclose with physical barriers, so other options might work better. Businesses also might find their employees prefer one method over the others because they feel it impedes their ability to do their jobs less.
Machine Guards for Saws and Power Tools
Power saws are responsible for a significant number of injuries annually, which makes sense since these tools have very sharp, fast-moving blades. To protect employees from dangerous power tools like these, workplaces should install guards designed for each type of saw. For example, a self-adjusting guard that encloses the ripsaw and crosscut saw of a table saw would be appropriate for that type of machinery, according to OSHA. For other saws, guarding the entire blade or installing a hood over the upper half of the saw may be more appropriate. Check manufacturer guidelines and other instructions for the specific power tools used in your workplace.
Be Smart Around Machines
Machine guarding can prevent many accidents, but that doesn’t mean workers shouldn’t practice basic safety measures for working around machines. Machine operators should avoid wearing loose clothing or jewelry that could get pulled into machines. They should also wear appropriate PPE, use caution around cords and wires and always follow lockout/tagout procedures when maintenance or cleaning needs to be performed.
For more information about machine guarding, listen to this podcast. To learn more about general machine safety, check out the SlideShare below.