Employers must protect workers from dangerous machinery

Any tool can be dangerous if someone uses it incorrectly. However, according to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, machines without proper guards are particularly hazardous. Roughly 18,000 workers each year suffer severe injuries such as amputations, crush injuries, abrasions and lacerations. More than 800 each year die of their injuries.

OSHA provides these insights on machine guarding and worker safety.

General machine guarding requirements

Guards should attach to the machine itself, if possible, but if not, leaving it loose is not an option. Each guard must affix securely to something or else it cannot fully provide protection. 

Hazards may arise from rotating parts, flying sparks or materials, ingoing nip points and points of operation.

Point of operation guards

The location where the machine performs its function on the material is the point of operation, and many of these may expose the operator to injury. Machines that create a particular point of operation hazard include:

  • Shears
  • Guillotine cutters
  • Power presses
  • Power saws
  • Jointers
  • Milling machines

All guards should meet the standards specific to that machinery, and they should prevent any body part from entering the danger zone while the machine is functioning. In many cases, employers should provide handtools that allow workers to handle the materials going in and out of the machinery so that no body parts enter a point of operation area. However, no handtool should act as a replacement for a guard.

Interlocking guards

Some machine components should have guard enclosures that interlock with the machine’s drive mechanism. This prevents a revolving drum, container or barrel from moving unless the guard is in place.

Fan blade guards

A fan that has blades with a periphery lower than 7 feet off the floor or the level where employees are working must have a guard on it with openings that are no more than 1/2 inch wide. 

Machine anchors

Unanchored machinery may “walk” across the floor or shift about as it operates. Anchors should secure any machine that functions in a fixed location.

Personal protective equipment

Machine guards are not a substitute for personal protective equipment. In any workspace where there may be flying particles, employees must have eye and face protection. Other personal protective equipment depends on the type of work environment and machinery in use.

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