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Machine Safety

- September 3, 2019 by Leslie Stoll, CSP, ARM (View all posts by Leslie)

We’ve been getting a lot of basic questions from our insured about machine safe guarding so we wanted to provide an informative blog on the subject.

There are four primary ways to safeguard a machine: Using guards, installing devices, by having adequate distance between people and the hazard, or by having the proper size opening to prohibit access to the danger.

The four types are of guards are:

  • Fixed – which means they are permanently in place and only removable with a special tool.
  • Adjustable – these guards can be re-arranged based on the stock going into the machine. If adjusted correctly, there will be no extra space for hands to fit through with the stock.
  • Self-adjusting – is what we see on a circular saw. As the operation takes place, the guard moves and then comes back.
  • Interlocked – which are designed to electronically stop motion if the guard is opened.

Safety guard devices are electronic components that can stop a machine when triggered and include presence sensing mats, light curtains, motion-sensing technology, barrier gates, interlocks, and more. All of these devices must be properly installed, properly maintained, and routinely inspected.

Barriers will not provide protection if the opening is large enough and the barrier too close to the hazard. Proper distance in-between the person and hazard can prevent someone from potentially catastrophic danger. A barrier with small openings can be mounted close to the hazard while barriers with larger openings must be farther away. OSHA has outlined measurements in their standards for opening size and distance.

Devices like light curtains must also be installed at a safe distance so the machine can come to a stop before the operator enters the danger zone. OSHA has a formula to help calculate this at their website.

You can also protect employees from moving parts by mounting items at least 7 feet above the operator platform. But always keep in mind that if employees use a ladder in the area or work on a mezzanine and can reach over to a hazard that the hazard still needs protection.

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