Use Machine Guarding to Prevent Injuries

Bruce Burk

Tampa, FL ( – One of the best ways to lower workers’ compensation exposure is to avoid accidents entirely. And one of the key ways this is done is through machine guarding.

Machine guarding is the process by which machines are made safer by guards and other mechanisms to prevent injury. OSHA has developed a set of standards for how machinery can be made safer.

The use of guards is one of the best ways to protect against machine. Guards can protect body parts from areas of a machine that are dangerous such as a saw blade. They can also trigger an automatic shutoff if a body part comes close. Guards can often be adjusted on devices and have to be turned off in order to re-start the machine.

Machine guards should be made out of metal and not weaker materials such as plastic or wood. Weaker metals, such as aluminum should also be avoided. Ideally, guards should be made by the manufacturer of the equipment so they blend seamlessly with the device.

Machine guarding comes in four different categories:

  1. Fixed
  2. Interlocking
  3. Adjustable
  4. Self-adjusting

Fixed guards are permanently attached and do not move. Adjustable guards are also permanent but they can adjust depending on what size materials the machine is working with. Self-adjusting guards automatically adjust when the machine changes size to accommodate different sizes of materials. Lastly, interlocking guards automatically shut off the machine when the guard is triggered.

Protective clothing should also be worn to protect against injury. When operating dangerous machines, one should wear protection for the eyes, ears, feet, hands, and other extremities in harm’s way. If using equipment that emits breathable toxins, a mask should be worn to protect the lungs.

Devices can also be used to automatically shut off machines when a dangerous situation arises. Many more dangerous machines are fitted with devices that put out laser or light emissions that can detect whether a body part or other object has entered an area it is not supposed to be entering. When that happens, the device can shut off, sound an alarm, or initiate other processes for safety. Moreover many machines require multiple contact points to be triggered in order to operate.

One of the best guards against machine-based injuries is just common sense. Dangerous machines should not be used while under the influence of illegal drugs, alcohol, or some forms of narcotic pain medication. When accidents happen, employers may require a drug test and, depending on the jurisdiction, a positive result could lead to workers’ compensation being denied. Moreover, keeping heavy machinery in the right locations away from high trafficked areas can prevent injury. Workers should perform inspections prior to using machines to make sure any guards are properly in place. If a machine locks or jams out, the machine should be deactivated and fixed according to the manufacture’s manual.

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