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July 24, 2006
En 'Guard'! Dueling with Machine Hazards

OSHA regulations require the use of machine guards to keep hands, feet, and other body parts away from machinery's dangerous points of operation and power trains (29 CFR 1910.211-222). Here's a brief rundown on machine safeguards to help ensure that your employees get the training they need to work safely with machines and prevent amputations and other horrible, disabling accidents.

Machine guards ward off danger. Guards provide physical barriers that prevent access to hazardous areas. They must be secure and strong, and workers should not be able to bypass, remove, or tamper with them. Guards should not obstruct the operator's view or prevent employees from working. There are basically four kinds of guards:

  • Fixed: Includes fences, gates, and protective covers for blades, presses, and all moving parts.
  • Interlocking: Disengages the machine's power source when opened or removed.
  • Adjustable: Provides a barrier that can be adjusted to many different operations.
  • Self-adjusting: These barriers move according to the size or position of the work piece.

Leave safety to your devices.

Why It Matters...
  • It's been estimated that every year workers who operate and maintain machinery suffer approximately 18,000 amputations, and more than 800 die as a result of machine-related accidents.
  • Failure of machine safeguards or employee ignorance of machine guarding requirements are contributing factors in many of these accidents.
  • Workplace amputations are one of the most costly workers' compensation claims.
  • One-third of nonfatal machine-related amputations result in 31 days or more away from work, and some injured workers are permanently disabled and can never return to their regular jobs.

In addition to machine guards, there are also safety devices that keep employees away from danger areas during machine operation. Safety devices must allow safe lubrication and maintenance and not create hazards or interfere with normal machine operation. In addition, they have to be secure, tamper-resistant, and durable. Machine safety devices include:

  • Presence-sensing devices, which cause a machine to stop working when a body part enters a certain danger field
  • Safety trip controls, which stop a machine automatically if a worker falls against a pressure-sensitive bar
  • Restraints, which use cables attached to a worker's hands and to a fixed point behind the worker to prevent hands from coming too close to the machinery's moving parts
  • Pullback devices, which pull the operator's hands away during the dangerous part of the operation (for example, when a slide or ram is descending)

Training in the danger zone. Safety training sessions should emphasize the need to:

  • Recognize machine hazards and the potential for serious injuries such as amputations
  • Understand the need for machine safeguards and how they protect employees
  • Check to see that guards are in place at all required points before turning on a machine
  • Realize that removing, bypassing, or tampering with machine guards exposes employees to serious injuries, including amputations
  • Report any problems with the operation of machine guards to their supervisor right away
  • Refrain from using a machine without required safeguarding or when safeguarding is not operating properly
  • Feed and operate machines correctly using hand tools when appropriate to keep hands away from the danger zone during cycling
  • Clear jams or make running adjustments safely
  • Clean and maintain machinery properly, replacing guards and making sure they are in place before using machine
  • Follow lockout/tagout procedures when machine guards must be removed for maintenance or repairs

And finally, remind them of the AUTO rule:

If you can reach
Over an existing machine guard ... STOP! You are in danger—the guard is not effective!

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