Any machine part, function, or process which may cause injury must be guarded. When the operation of the machine or accidental contact with it can injure an employee or a visitor in that area, the hazard must be either controlled or eliminated. Safeguards primarily protect machine operators from needless and very preventable injuries. The need for “guarding” may be found in the Facilities Department, in some academic environments, and in workshops for example. The primary types of injuries that guarding is intended to prevent are injured hands and fingers, electrical shocks, burns, and blindness. Guarding in these described instances is required by OSHA regulation.
Common Mechanical Hazards Dangerous moving parts in 3 basic areas require “guarding”:
- Point of Operation: Where the work is performed on an object, such as cutting, shaping, boring, or forming.
- Power Transmission Apparatus: The components of a mechanical system which transmit energy to the part of the machine performing the work, such as flywheels, pulleys, belts, connecting rods, couplings, cams, spindles, chains, cranks, and gears.
- Other Moving Parts: The parts of the machine which move while the machine is in operation. These parts of the machine performing the work, such as flywheels, pulleys, belts, connecting rods, couplings, cams, spindles, chains, cranks, and gears.
HAZARDOUS MECHANICAL MOTIONS AND ACTIONS
A wide variety of mechanical motions and actions may present hazards to a machine operator. These can include the movement of rotating members, reciprocating arms, moving belts, meshing gears, cutting teeth, and impact or shearing parts. Recognizing them and the dangers they pose is the first step in protection for operators. Requirements for an Effective Guard (Minimum OSHA Requirements, 29 CFR 1910.211-219)
- Prevent Contact: The guard must prevent hands, arms, or any other part of the body or clothing from contact with dangerous moving parts.
- Secure: Guards should not be easy to remove or alter. A guard that can be easily disabled is not a guard. Guards and other safety devices should be made of durable material that will withstand the conditions of normal use, and they must be firmly secured to the machine.
- Protect from Falling Objects: The guard should ensure that no objects can fall into moving parts. A small tool which is dropped into a cycling machine could easily become a projectile that could strike and injure someone.
- Create No New Hazards: A guard defeats its own purpose if it creates a new hazard of its own, such as a shear point, a jagged edge, or an unfinished surface which can cause a laceration. The edges of guards should be rolled or bolted in such a way that can eliminate sharp edges.
- Create No Interference: Any guard which impedes an operator from performing the job quickly and comfortably might soon be overridden or disregarded. Proper safeguarding can enhance efficiency since it can relieve the operator’s apprehensions about injury.
- Lubrication with Guard Intact: Although this is a permissive standard, OSHA strongly recommends that oiling or lubrication of moving parts be possible without removing that guard.
The best guard in the world is useless if the operator does not understand its purpose and use. Training should be extended beyond the operator to employees required to maintain or service the machine as well. It is particularly vital for new operators to have this training prior to operating the equipment. The following are aspects of a guard which any operator should understand:
- Hazard Identification: An operator should understand the hazard associated with the machinery they operate.
- Guards: The operator should know the guards and how they afford protection to an operator.
- Removing Guards: The operator should know when, and under what circumstances, a guard can be removed, and by whom. Typically, this would be only during repair or maintenance of the machine and Lockout/Tagout procedures would apply.
- Missing or Damaged Guards: The operator should know what to do if a guard is found damaged or missing and is unable to provide adequate protection from the hazard.
PERSONAL PROTECTIVE EQUIPMENT (PPE)
Engineering controls, such as installation of guards, can eliminate a hazard at its source and does not rely on human behavior to be effective. This should be the first choice for eliminating or controlling a hazard. If that cannot be done, Personal Protective Equipment is the next best alternative.
- Trunk of Body: To protect the trunk of the body from cuts or impacts from heavy or rough-edged stock, certain protective coveralls, jackets, vests, aprons, and full body suits are alternatives in PPE.
- Hands and Arms: To protect hands and arms, protective sleeves and gloves are alternatives in PPE.
- Feet and Lower Legs: To protect feet and lower legs, safety shoes and boots, toe guards, and leggings are alternatives in PPE.
- Face and Eyes: To protect faces and eyes, face shields, goggles, and safety glasses are alternatives in PPE.
GENERAL SAFETY CONSIDERATIONS
Beyond engineering controls and PPE, there are common sense things that can be done around machine operation which can improve odds of avoiding injury. They are:
- Attire: Loose fitting shirts, shirt tails being left out, loose jewelry, rings, etc. can all contribute to accidents and injury under the right circumstances. Evaluate what you wear.
- Environment: The area should be well lit, clean, free from dust, water, and dirt. Keep the area around your feet and overhead free of obstacles.
- Machinery: Preventive maintenance schedules should be followed precisely, tools should be well oiled and safely stored, and cords and accessories should be inspected regularly for wear.