As a consultant in the field, it is common to encounter situations where employees are exposed to hazards that can result in injuries, amputation, or even loss of life. Machine guarding was one of OSHA’s Top Ten Most Frequently Cited Safety Violations in 2022. Here is why: last year alone, 18,000 workers were injured, and 800 were killed by unguarded or inaccurately guarded equipment.
When we think of injuries resulting from insufficient machine guarding, one is prone to visualize an industrial facility with large presses, shears, and/or lathes where metal parts are being created using large, powerful equipment. However, the reality is that machine guarding challenges are commonly found in various locations, including food processing facilities, farming operations, grocery stores, restaurants, small workshops, retail stores, auto mechanic shops, and even office and home environments. You may not think you have exposure, but every day we are protected in some way from getting injured by barriers, sensors, and guards in all kinds of places.
What is machine guarding?
The first challenge of avoiding guarding hazards is recognizing that they exist. In its simplest form, machine guarding can be defined as “creating a physical barrier to a hazard” such as a moving part, electrical exposures, or a pinch point on any piece of equipment that moves or has moving parts. Manufacturers spend millions of dollars a year to find ways to create sufficient physical barriers on the equipment they sell by assessing exposures and trying to pre-determine ways that the end user might access those exposures. These manufacturers employ teams of engineers and third-party organizations to make equipment as safe as possible. Still, once a piece of equipment enters the end users’ control, the manufacturer can do little to ensure that the installed guarding or installed procedures remain intact.
Keep your crews safe with these tips
It is at that point that employers have an important responsibility to ensure that they have taken adequate steps to keep staff safe when they are operating on or working with different equipment. Below are some general machine-guarding safety measures to help to minimize the chances of machine-related injuries:
- Identify the hazards by conducting safety audits
- Conduct regular inspections and ensure the machinery is clean and properly maintained
- Conduct regular safety training for workers, including new employees
- Establish safety procedures for addressing unsafe conditions
- Ensure that only trained workers operate machinery and they do not wear loose-fitting clothing that could become entangled in the machinery
- Prohibit other workers from being near the machinery during operations
- Conduct planned and unplanned inspections to ensure procedures are still being followed
As an ICW Group customer, we want you and your employees to be safe and to have the highest quality of life possible. Creating a safe working environment is easier when machine safety is everybody’s responsibility. Our motto is “So You Go Home Safe!” Please make that your motto as well!
For machine guarding training resources to share with your team, visit ICW Group’s Safety OnDemand® learning management system. Free with your workers’ compensation policy, Safety OnDemand has 1000s of materials and tools you can use to keep your workers safe. Be sure to read the next article in this series of OSHA Top Ten Violations for 2022 – Personal Protective Equipment (Eye and Face Protection) coming soon.