What is OSHA Machine Guarding?
“Employee exposure to unguarded or inadequately guarded machines is prevalent in many workplaces. Consequently, workers who operate and maintain machinery suffer approximately 18,000 amputations, lacerations, crushing injuries, abrasions, and over 800 deaths per year. Amputation is one of the most severe and crippling types of injuries in the occupational workplace, and often results in permanent disability.” (Source)
Industrial equipment is dangerous. Machines such as power saws, shears, guillotine cutters, presses, milling machines, fans, conveyor belts, palletisers and revolving drums can slice, crush, and tear off workers’ body parts. Sometimes, hazards are caused by nip points (also called pinch points)—points where one or more parts (such as gears) rotate. In other cases, machines generate sparks or flying chips that can injure workers.
For these reasons, OSHA requires that certain pieces of equipment have specific protection mechanisms in place. This is what’s known as machine guarding. Examples of machine guarding include barriers, light curtains, and two-hand trips.
Machine guarding typically applies to the point of operation—that is, the location on or near the machine where work is performed. However, many machines need to be safeguarded at multiple points. Additionally, there are plenty of instances where OSHA requires or recommends secondary controls, such as alarms and fences.
Why OSHA Machine Guarding Violations Happen
The danger posed by machines may seem obvious, and yet accidents and incidents happen frequently. In fact, machine guarding violations are one of the most commonly cited OSHA standards.
Why do so many machine guarding violations occur? One reason is that not all equipment has required safety controls in place. While most single-purpose machines provide point-of-operation and power transmission safeguards as standard equipment, not all machines in use have built-in safeguards provided by the manufacturer. Perhaps safeguards have been removed because they got in the way or the nature of the work changed. Or maybe, as is the case for many older machines, safeguards simply weren’t there to begin with.
Sometimes, where there aren’t built-in safeguards, users will construct and design their own safeguards. Unfortunately, user-built guards have disadvantages—they may be poorly designed or built, or may not conform well to the configuration and function of the machine.
Regardless of the type of guard in place, countless machine guarding accidents result from human error. Workers rush or become careless and overlook safety precautions. Sometimes, people make the wrong decisions in moments of panic—a supervisor may shut power off while someone is still using a machine, for instance, or an operator may press the wrong button. Stress can cause or exacerbate these issues.
Finally, as with virtually all OSHA violations, inadequate training is a leading cause for accidents.
What You Stand to Lose When Machine Guarding Violations Happen
Direct costs: OSHA penalties can exceed $15,000 per violation—and as much per day for every day the issue hasn’t been fixed by OSHA’s deadline. The fine for a willful or repeated violation can be 10 times as much.
- workers’ compensation claims from workers who sustained amputations, cuts, abrasions, or other machine-caused injuries
- lost productivity due to injuries
- expenses related to replacing safeguards or installing missing ones
- expenses related to replacing damaged equipment
- legal and compliance fees
- decreased morale
- negative publicity and reputational damage
Signs You’re at Risk of Machine Guarding Violation
So, what exactly are we guarding against?
There are all kinds of mechanical motions and action that can cause injuries. Think of things like moving belts, meshing gears, or things that punch or shear. Understanding the different types of mechanical motions is the first step towards protecting your workers from potential harm from the danger zones caused by them.
Eight Basic Types of Hazardous Mechanical Motions and Actions:
According to OSHA,
“Rotating motion can be dangerous; even smooth, slowly rotating shafts can grip hair and clothing, and through minor contact force the hand and arm into a dangerous position. Injuries due to contact with rotating parts can be severe. Collars, couplings, cams, clutches, flywheels, shaft ends, spindles, meshing gears, and horizontal or vertical shafting are some examples of common rotating mechanisms which may be hazardous. The danger increases when projections such as set screws, bolts, nicks, abrasions, and projecting keys or set screws are exposed on rotating parts.“
In-running nip point hazards are caused by the rotating parts on machinery. Think stock fed between two rollers, or machines with intermeshing gears , or transmission belts. These motions can create nip points.
A transverse motion is one that moves in a straight, continuous line. Workers can get struck or caught in a pinch or shear point by a moving part.
Cutting actions can involve rotating, reciprocating, or transverse motions. You typically find these hazards when cutting wood, metal and other materials. Think bandsaws, circular saws, drill presses, or lathes.
You’ll find this action when stamping, blanking, or drawing metals or other materials. The hazard typically occers where the stock os inserted, managed or withdrawn by hand.
You’ll find this action when trimming or shearing metal or other materials. Just like punching actions, the hazard typically occers where the stock os inserted, managed or withdrawn by hand.
Bending action results when power is applied to a slide in order to draw or stamp metal or other materials. A hazard occurs at the point of operation where stock is inserted, held, and withdrawn. Equipment that uses bending action includes power presses, press brakes, and tubing benders.
Ok, you’ve figured out the motions you need to guard against. Now it’s time to determine which type of guard you need. You’ve got four to pick from
Four General Types of Machine Guards
A fixed guard is one that’s a permanent part of the machine. It doesn’t rely on moving parts to function. They can be made of sheet metal, screen, wire cloth, bars, plastic – pretty much any material sturdy enough to withstand impact and endure prolonged use. It’s designed to provide a barrier between the worker and the piece of equipment, and it’s often the preferred type because of its’ simplicity.
This type of guard has a tripping mechanism that automatically shuts off or disengages the machine when the guard is opened or removed. The machine can’t be started back up until the guard is back in place.
Adjustable guards typically accommodate different sizes of stock – their flexibility is what makes them useful. They work by providing an adjustable barrier. While their flexibility may make them useful, they may not provide complete protection at all times as hands may enter the danger area.
The openings of these barriers automatically adjust to the size of the stock moving through it. As the operator moves the stock into the danger area, the guard is pushed away, providing an opening that is only large enough to admit the stock. After the stock is removed, the guard returns to the rest position. These are a step up from the adjustable guards, but may also be pricier.
How to Avoid a Machine Guarding Violation:
Your Prevention Checklist
You Don’t Have to Manage Your OSHA Requirements Alone
Have questions? Looking for more detailed OSHA compliance guidance?
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To truly protect your workforce and bottom line, you’ll need in-depth information—and not just about OSHA’s top 10, but every potential hazard that exists in your organization. You’ll also need to conduct a thorough evaluation of your facilities to identify current gaps and risk areas.
KPA’s unique combination of software, training, and consulting services can provide the coverage your people and your organization need. For more information and guidance about preventing an OSHA machine guarding violation, please contact us.