Safety Measures for Machine Guarding

Moving machine parts have the potential to cause severe workplace injuries and in addition to the lockout/tagout procedures that we have covered, machine guarding is also an essential safety measure that employers need to adhere to.

As OSHA and other safety agencies require, any machine part, function, or process that may cause injury must be safeguarded. When the operation of a machine or accidental contact injure the operator or others in the vicinity, the hazards must be eliminated or controlled. Machines such as saws, presses, conveyors, hand tools and forklifts are just some of the devices that need to be guarded.

Recently OSHA cited a fiberglass pipe manufacturer for safety and health violations after an employee suffered a finger amputation. The company faces $74,833 in proposed penalties.

The investigators determined that due to a lack of machine guarding, the employee’s safety-gloved hand was pulled into a pipe-winding machine, resulting in a finger amputation. OSHA cited the manufacturer for 10 serious and two other violations for exposing employees to struckby and caught-in hazards by failing to install proper machine guarding; failing to train employees on how to energy sources; and allowing combustible dust to accumulate.

Guards are sometimes preferable to other control methods because they are physical barriers that enclose dangerous machine parts and prevent employee contact with them. To be effective, guards must be strong and fastened by any secure method that prevents the guard from being inadvertently dislodged or removed. Guards typically are designed with screws, bolts and lock fasteners and usually a tool is necessary to unfasten and remove them. Generally, guards are designed not to obstruct the operator’s view or to prevent employees from doing a job.

In some cases, guarding may be used as an alternative to lockout/tagout because employees can safely service or maintain machines with a guard in place. For example, polycarbonate and wire-mesh guards provide greater visibility and can be used to allow maintenance employees to safely observe system components. In other instances, employees may safely access machine areas, without locking or tagging out, to perform maintenance work (such as machine cleaning or oiling tasks) because the hazardous machine components remain effectively guarded.

There are specific standards for machine guarding that are available online including:

  • 212 – General requirements for all machines
  • 213 – Woodworking machinery requirements
  • 215 – Abrasive wheel machinery
  • 217 – Mechanical power presses
  • 218 – Forging machines
  • 219 – Mechanical power transmission apparatus
  • Control of Hazardous Energy (Lockout/Tagout)
  • Hand and Power Tools:
    29 CFR Part 1926, Subpart I
  • Conveyors:
    29 CFR 1926.555
  • Concrete and Masonry Construction
    29 CFR Part 1926, Subpart Q

Above all, employers must evaluate their workplace to ensure employees are provided appropriate training, and the equipment they use is properly guarded to prevent amputation hazards. For more information, contact our offices at Diversified Safety Services.


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Nina McGinley

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