Each week we hear stories of injuries and amputations when workers fail to use guards on machinery and tools with moving parts. OSHA press releases point out big-dollar penalties relating to machine guarding, lockout and training. It’s easy to forget the importance of using guards properly, particularly if we use the same machine or tool daily. Familiarity with a machine can make us feel too comfortable and overconfident, and we may pay less attention to the unguarded moving parts until it’s too late.
We must constantly guard chains, belts, rotating shafts and pinch-points to ensure safety. No one requires manufacturers to meet OSHA standards. Even if you see a label that reads “OSHA Approved,” remember that OSHA doesn’t approve equipment or machines. Do not remove guards from new machines and tools. If you purchase used tools or machinery, make sure they have the appropriate effective guards that meet the following basic requirements:
Guards must effectively prevent body parts, loose clothing and jewelry from making contact with moving machine/tool parts.
Guards should be secure, not easily removable and made from materials that will withstand use and exposure to the environment.
We tend to remove or circumvent guards that hinder us from performing a job quickly and comfortably. Regularly inspect guards. They should allow servicing with a reasonable level of effort. Also make sure they are in good working order and don’t create additional hazards such as shear points, jagged edges or unfinished surfaces.
Types of guarding for machines and tools include:
This most common guard is a permanent part of a machine and can be self-adjusting or allow for manual adjustment.
Many are photoelectrical, using light sources and controls that interrupt the machine if the light beam is broken. When you break the capacitance field, the machine will stop.
Safety trip controls, such as pressure-sensitive body bars, safety tripods and safety tripwire cables can quickly deactivate a machine.
Location and Distance
You can use barriers, such as walls or fences, to limit access to moving parts. You can also place restrictions on entry without lockout, but you must constantly reinforce the rules and have adequate training.
Don’t be one of the thousands of workers injured because you failed to use machine or tool guards.