Effective machine guarding is essential where injury-causing hazards from machinery operations cannot be eliminated or reduced to a safe level.
Machines provide a vital function in all sectors of the workforce, from construction to manufacturing, to retail, service and hospitality. They can perform repetitive tasks at high speeds and can use various energy sources to apply forces that shape, cut, bend, lift and move materials, some of which may otherwise not be humanly possible. Unfortunately, the attributes that can increase production, quality, safety and business profits, can also be the source of severe, life-altering injuries or fatalities if not properly designed and safeguarded.
Most machinery today comes with some level of guarding provided by the manufacturer, but this does not ensure it complies with current regulatory or consensus standards. In addition, manufacturer-installed guards do not replace an employer’s responsibility for providing a safe workplace by protecting employees from recognized hazards. Similarly, there is no “grandfather clause” for lack of proper guarding on older equipment relative to an employer’s safety obligations. Whether new, used, modified or original, it is the employer’s responsibility to ensure that all machinery used by employees is safe for operation.
Three Steps to Effective Machine Guarding for Mechanical Hazards
- Determine Risk Factors
- Identify Control Options and Priorities
- Evaluate and Maintain Safeguards
Determine risk factors
Whenever possible, read and understand the equipment manufacturer’s operations and user manuals. As the end-user you must identify and understand the potential risk factors. One way to do this is to conduct a machine risk assessment. Ideally, this should be done as part of the installation of machinery and whenever modifications to the machinery are made. This can also be done as part of a Job Hazard Analysis. A good assessment of potential risk factors should include consideration of all aspects of the machine’s operations and those who may be in the area of operations.