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March 07, 2005
Guarding Against Machine Accidents

Machine rule violations are high on OSHA's hit parade. Violations of 29 CFR 1910, Subpart O (Machinery and Machine Guarding), of OSHA's regulations are among the most frequently cited every year, and penalties can run into the tens of thousands of dollars for each violation. Providing guards for machines is not optional: OSHA states unequivocally that "machine guarding shall be provided" against such hazards as "those created by the point of operation, ingoing nip points, rotating parts, flying chips, and sparks," and they must protect both machine operators and everyone else in the area. With this in mind, the two fundamental rules of machine safety should be:

  • Never, ever remove, disable, or try to circumvent a machine guard, and
  • Never, ever use a machine with a guard that is missing, disabled, or not working properly.

One size doesn't fit all. These basic safety rules are essential, but they are not enough for complete training in machine safety. Subpart O covers an extremely wide range of industrial machines, including:

  • Woodworking machines of all kinds (1910.213)
  • Abrasive wheels (1910.215)
  • Mills and calenders in rubber and plastics industries (1910.216)
  • Mechanical power presses (1910.217)
  • Forging machines (1910.217)
  • Mechanical power transmission apparatuses (1910.218), applicable to many of the above kinds of machines

These rules are essentially performance-oriented equipment specifications, and they're not exactly light bedside reading. Even so, trainers need to be thoroughly familiar with those that apply to the machines in their workplace and be able to demonstrate and explain different pieces of equipment to their employees--ideally, right on the shop floor.

How often should you conduct machine safety training? The OSHA rules are not very specific on the type and frequency of training for machine operation.

Why It Matters...
  • OSHA's general requirements for machines and machine guarding was the sixth-most-cited rule violation in FY 2004, with more than 3,000 citations issued.
  • Penalties for these violations of machine and machine guarding rules totaled more than $7.5 million!
  • More than 5,000 amputations occur each year in manufacturing industries.

Yet, the consequences of machine accidents are severe enough that training should clearly be a top priority. At a minimum, training should take place:

  • For new operators of existing machines
  • For new types of machines introduced into the workplace
  • Whenever there is evidence that an operator needs training
  • At least annually, on a "refresher" basis

Note: Don't forget to document your training with employee names, dates, and type of training.

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