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Machine Guarding Signs: Frequently Asked Questions and OSHA Safety Guidelines

Q. Why are machine guards important?


Machine guards are crucial safety devices required by OSHA for the protection of workers. Operating machinery poses many risks for operators arising from hot/fast-moving parts, rotating parts, ingoing nip points, blades, fans, etc. In the absence of proper safety processes and guards, the workers may get burnt, their clothes may get entangled, or their body parts injured. Machine guarding significantly reduces the risk of such hazards and contributes towards achieving a safer work environment.

Q. What is meant by the point of operation of machines? Which machines need point of operation guards?

The point of operation of a machine refers to the area where the work is performed on a machine. Such points may lead to worker injuries if not guarded properly. Machines that need point of operation guards include shears, alligator shears, guillotine cutters, power presses, milling machines, jointers, power saws, portable power tools, and forming rolls and calenders.

Q. How should the point of operation of machines be guarded?


According to OSHA 1910.212(a)(3), the devices used to guard the machine’s point of operation should comply with any appropriate standards as applicable. The guards should be designed and constructed to prevent any part of the operator’s body in the danger zone. The standard further explains that hand tools, used for placing and removing materials into and from the point of operations, should be designed to allow easy handling of the material. This also should not require the operator to place their hand in the danger zone.

Q. What are some common OSHA violations specific to machine guarding?

Ignoring safety protocols in the workplace regarding machine guarding is quite common, especially during repair and maintenance procedures. Many repair operations require the guards, and other safety devices to be removed, but these are often not replaced once the repair work is over. Unguarded blades and pulleys, out-of-date or poorly protected fans are also a common sight in many plants and workplaces. Such violations can prove rather dangerous and cost the employer an injured worker, halted operation, liability claims, and more.

Q. What is the seven-foot rule for machine guarding?


The seven-foot rule for machine guarding requires hazardous operations to be enclosed or guarded if they are located seven feet or less from the floor or working platform. This rule is covered in OSHA 1910.219 about mechanical power transmission apparatus and includes flywheels, shafting, pulleys, horizontal belts, vertical and inclined belts, gears, and more.

Q. What are some machine safety measures that employers should follow to be OSHA compliant?

There are a few machine safety measures for employers to ensure compliance with OSHA requirements. These include ensuring that rotating and moving equipment parts and pointed objects such as fan blades or power saws and machinery, pits, holes, and hazardous procedures are adequately guarded. The metal parts of electrical equipment must be bonded and grounded. Any electrical equipment that creates flames, sparks, arcs, or molten metal should be enclosed and placed at a reasonable distance from combustible substances. It is also important to guard chains and gears and maintain machinery in a safe, clean, and secure working condition. Any emergency stop buttons should be red in color, which facilitates easy identification and timely response.

Q. Are there any minimum requirements that machine safeguards should meet?


To be effective and not turn into a hazard themselves, machine safeguards must meet the following requirements:

  • - Serve the basic purpose of preventing any part of a worker’s body from contacting dangerous moving parts.
  • - Made of durable material and secured so that workers cannot tamper with or remove them easily.
  • - Prevent objects from falling into moving parts.
  • - Allow safe lubrication without the need for the safeguard to be removed.
  • - Have rolled or bolted edges to eliminate the risks associated with sharp edges. Meant to prevent hazards, machine guards should not end up becoming one.
  • - Safeguards that hinder operations or decrease productivity may simply be dismissed or overlooked. A well-designed safeguard should ideally enhance efficiency by allowing the workers to operate without worrying about their safety.

Q. What are the OSHA requirements for machine guarding signs?


OSHA emphasizes the use of machine safeguarding awareness devices such as signs, barriers, and signals to warn individuals of any impending, approaching, or present hazards. The design, application and use of machine guarding signs for accident prevention must be in accordance with the specifications set forth by OSHA standard 1910.145.

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