Machine Guarding Basics – Are Your Machines Safe or Unsafe?

You might wonder why you would have to install guards on your woodworking or metal working machines. Aren’t manufacturers required to install guards on the machines they sell? The short answer to that is no. Many manufacturers continue to build and sell their tools without the necessary safeguards and electrical controls required by OSHA and various safety regulations.

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Current laws do not require the machine manufacturers to do so. OSHA requires that the employer make sure all of the machines that are used in the workplace comply with current standards. Simply stated, it is up to you to make sure your machines are properly guarded so you do not get hurt or hurt anyone around you. Unfortunately, not every machine will perform the intended function without posing an injury hazard to the operator. Therefore, you must make a reasonable effort to protect the operator from its inherent hazards.

So where do most mechanical hazards occur? Moving parts pose hazards in three main places – The Point of Operation, Power Transmission and Other Moving Parts.

The Point of Operation is the place where machine’s purpose takes place. For example, where a saw blade cuts wood or where a drill bit bores a hole. Common injuries include cuts ranging from minor to fatal, flying material chips, ejected parts and puncture wounds. These areas need to be guarded with chip shield or rigid barriers.

The Power Transmission is the point where power is transferred from the machine’s motor to its point of operation. Belts, pulley and lead screws are a major source of crushed hands, entangled hair and clothing. These accidents occur quickly and often cause serious injury or fatalities. Exposed belts and pulleys should be covered with a panel that cannot be easily removed to protect the operator.

Other Moving Parts include any other machine part that moves in a rotating, reciprocating or feeding motion. You might ask, “How do I know if a machine requires a safety guard? A good rule to remember is, “Any machine part, function, or process which may cause injury must be safeguarded. When the operation of a machine or accidental contact with it can injure the operator or others in the vicinity, the hazard must either be controlled or eliminated.” (From the OSHA Machine-Guarding Standard)

After assessing the machines in your shop and performing necessary guarding, you should be confident that the machines are guarded to the relevant standards. If you are not sure that they are, it may be time to seek help from an expert. The purpose of hiring an expert is to help you provide a workplace free of machine hazards. Working with your safety committee, the machine guarding company will provide a thorough assessment of machine hazards. Next, they will implement a machine-guarding program that meets all manufacturing and regulatory requirements. The result is an enhanced bottom line due to the increased productivity, efficiency and morale of your company’s most valuable asset, your employees.

Motor controls are another important item to review when performing a safety audit on a cutting or turning machine. The first step is to determine if the machine’s motor controls meet current standards. OSHA and ANSI standards require that machines have an emergency stop within the operator’s reach. It should be red, latch when pushed and have a yellow background.

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