Understanding and Applying OSHA Machine Guarding Standards
Every year, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) publishes its list of the top 10 most frequently cited standards violations occurring in American workplaces. Machinery and machine guarding violations show consistently on this list from year to year. They ranked at number 10 in 2015 and made the list in 2019 as well.
Violations of OSHA’s machine guarding standards can cause life-threatening accidents. On a yearly basis, over 800 deaths result from accidents involving inadequately guarded or unguarded machines. Even when the workers survive, they can experience injuries that have life-altering consequences for both themselves and their families. Examples of serious injuries that can arise from machine guarding violations include crushing injuries, abrasions, lacerations and amputations. Approximately 18,000 injuries related to machine guarding occur annually in the U.S.
Recent Examples of Machine Guarding Violations
Due to the potentially serious consequences of machine guarding violations for workers, it is no surprise that OSHA imposes hefty fines when it discovers employer noncompliance. Within the last five years, OSHA has imposed fines in the tens of thousands of dollars on employers in various industries in which it found significant regulatory violations:
Overview of OSHA's Machine Guarding Standards
Although OSHA's machine guarding standards are wide reaching, they can be boiled down to the basic essentials. Whenever possible, the guards should be affixed directly to the machine itself. When this is not possible, the guard should be secured elsewhere in a way that it not only prevents the operator from extending any part of his or her body into the danger zone while the machinery is in operation, it also protects any other employees in the machine area.
Types of Safeguards Available
OSHA regulations do not specify specific safeguards to be used with any particular machinery. Rather, they give examples of guarding methods that may be used. The type of safeguard most appropriate in a given situation depends on multiple factors, including production requirements and limitations, the type of material being used (including the size and shape of the stock), the type of operation, and the physical layout of the work area.
Physical guards fall into three basic categories:
1. Safety Controls
These include two-hand controls, which prevent the machine from operating unless there is constant pressure from both hands on the controls at the same time. They also include safety trip controls that can quickly deactivate a machine.
These include restraints and pullbacks that attach to parts of the operator's body and prevent movement into the danger zone. They also include sensing devices that detect the presence of a body part or other obstruction via electromagnetic or photoelectrical means. When an obstruction is detected, the operation automatically ceases.
Guards can be fixed, adjustable or self-adjusting, which means that the size of the opening adjusts to permit only the stock to enter. OSHA prefers fixed guards whenever possible, preferably designed and installed by the manufacturer, although in some circumstances, such as when the machine is older, user-built guards may be the only alternative.
Hazards From Mechanical Motions
Employers should take particular care to install appropriate machine guarding around nip points. Also called pinch points, these are areas where a part of the body could become trapped between two different moving parts. Nip points are a particular hazard among any machine parts that rotate, as well as those that produce motion in a straight, continuous line, which is also called transverse motion.
However, there is also a danger of getting caught between a moving part and a stationary object. This can occur when the equipment makes a reciprocating, i.e. back-and-forth, motion. Cutting and shearing machines pose a risk of lacerations or amputations, while bending or punching motions pose a risk of crush injuries.
Safety Measures Beyond Guarding
In addition to the machine guards required by OSHA regulations, employers can make use of additional safety measures to help prevent accidents. A lack of access to dangerous machinery helps to reduce the chance of it causing an injury, so it may help to place the dangerous equipment in remote or infrequently traveled areas. On-product labels can support safety and warning messages at the point of interaction with the hazard. As an added support, custom safety signs can be designed with tailored messaging to help alert your employees, visitors and contractors of the presence of potentially unsafe equipment. Employers can also reduce access by placing barriers around dangerous machinery. These barriers may be fixed or movable.
Clarion Safety Systems provides best practice, standards compliant machine guarding equipment labels that can help alert employees of the danger of operating machinery without proper safeguards and advise them of additional safety precautions, such as wearing protective gear. Raising workers’ safety awareness can help prevent injuries and help keep your company from undergoing costly litigation in the event of a machine guard-related accident. Reach out to us for insight on how to get your equipment and workplace up and running with the industry-leading safety labels and signs to effectively warn against hazards and protect people from harm.