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Employers are responsible for providing all necessary machine guarding and safety equipment throughout their factory, workshop or other workplace.

Workers are responsible for using the guards and other safety measures required by the employer.

Why machine guarding should be treated seriously

  • OSHA machine guarding regulations outline legal responsibilities which include the provision of guarding for machinery in the workplace. Non compliance can lead to significant fines and lawsuits.
  •  Poor machine guarding practices are a major hazard confronted by people in the workplace everyday.  
  • Approximately 8 out of 10 workplace fatalities and 1 in 4 workplace injuries involve mechanical equipment.  
  • Many workplace injuries, caused through machinery are preventable. 
  • Exposure to dangerous machine parts during operation, examination, lubrication, adjustment and/or maintenance, pose many risks. If the risk cannot be eliminated it must be minimized. In order to reduce the risk, all machinery must be securely guarded to prevent access to dangerous parts. 
  • All guards should be correctly and securely fitted before operating machinery. 
  • Machine guarding is vital to every workplace using machinery. It is an essential protection that employers must provide for their workers. Machine guards do not have to be complicated nor interfere with productivity.

Hazard vs risk management approach

A Hazard is something which has the potential to cause injury, illness or death. The term hazard can be applied to substances, methods or machines.

A Risk is the possibility of injury, illness or death to a person due to hazard exposure. The risk will depend on factors such as the nature of the hazard, the degree of exposure and the individual characteristics of the person and/or hazard.

Getting started

  1. The first step in guarding machinery is to identify the hazards and the associated levels of risk. You may want to ask your staff to walk through the work areas and identify machinery in which moving components or exposed items could cause injury.
  2. Draw up a plan to rectify items listed in order of priority. In prioritizing items for attention consider not only the likelihood of injury but also the severity of the injury.
  3. It is also a good idea to arrange inspections by someone who is not necessarily familiar with your plant but is familiar with your industry. In some cases you may want to look for long term as well as immediate solutions.
  4. Guarding a machine may be the best solution now, but when replacing the machine in the future an improved machine with built in safety features may be the best option.

Workers should consider

  • activities they perform
  • where their face, hands and feet are placed
  • the body position they assume while they are performing a specific task
  • hazard exposure inherent in the equipment or generated by it
  • Regular workplace inspections (using a checklist) to help uncover obvious workplace hazards.

To help identify dangerous machine parts, look for

  • “drawing in” points
  • shear points
  • impact and crushing areas
  • cutting areas
  • entanglement areas
  • stabbing points
  • abrasion areas
  • flying particles
  • any protrusions which could cause injury

Machine hazards which may be controlled by guarding include

  • points of operation
  • contact or entanglement with machinery
  • being trapped between machine and material or fixed structure
  • contact with material in motion
  • being struck by ejected parts of machinery
  • being struck by material ejected from machine
  • release of potential energy


Selecting a guard type 

There is numerous guard types used to control risks. All are suited to a particular purpose or machine. Consider the type of guard best suited to your needs. Different guard types include:

Fixed Guards are permanent barrier without moving parts, which prevents contact between moving machinery and the operator.

Interlocked Guards has moveable parts and is interconnected with the power (or control) system of a machine. Interconnections can be electrical, mechanical, hydraulic or pneumatic.

Controlling the risk

Appropriate control measures must be put in place to eliminate the risk, or where it is not reasonably practicable to do so, the risk must be minimized. The hierarchy of control (listed in order of priority) is:

Elimination (means to completely remove the hazard, or the risk of hazard exposure. Removal of the hazard is the ideal control solution)

Substitution (involves replacing a hazardous piece of machinery or a work process with a non-hazardous one)

Engineering (If a hazard cannot be eliminated or replaced with a less hazardous option, the next preferred measure is to use an engineering control. ‘Engineering’ controls may include: machine guarding)

Administration (Where ‘Engineering’ cannot fully control a health and safety risk, administration controls should be used. ‘Administration’ controls introduce work practices that reduce risk and limit employee exposure.

Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)  should only be used when other higher order control measures are not possible, and only as a short term solution. Efforts to remove health and safety risks using ‘Elimination’, ‘Engineering’ and ‘Administration’ controls should be fully explored before PPE is implemented.

Machine guarding other considerations


  • Work Processes 


  • Layout 


  • Fatigue 


  • Lighting


  • Noise


  • Ventilation


  • Training


  • Isolation


  • Controls


  • Weight


  • Color Coding


  • Interactions


  • Dust

Inspection, Cleaning & Maintenance

To safeguard employees you must have regular inspections, cleaning and maintenance procedures which are well understood throughout the workplace. Isolation or lockout / tag out / block out procedures need to be applied whenever maintenance or repair requires people to enter the danger area around machinery. Safe operating procedures are required to ensure machinery cannot be restarted when undergoing maintenance or other temporary operations.

Other Regulatory Requirements

• Inspection and Maintenance Records
• Training of Maintenance Personnel
• Instruction to Operators
• ANSI B11.2, Hydraulic Power Presses
• ANSI B11.3, Power Press Brakes
• ANSI B11.4, Shears
• ANSI B11.5, Iron Workers
• ANSI B11.6, Manual Turning Machines (Lathes)
• ANSI B11.7, Cold Header and Cold Formers
• ANSI B11.8, Drilling, Milling, and Boring Machines
• ANSI B11.9, Grinding Machines
• ANSI B11.10, Metal Sawing Machines
• ANSI B11.11, Gear Cutting Machines
• ANSI B11.12, Roll Forming and Roll Bending Machines
• ANSI B11.13, Automatic Screw/Bar and Chucking Machines
• ANSI B11.14, Coil Slitting Machines/Systems
• ANSI B11.15, Pipe, Tube, and Shape Bending Machines
• ANSI B11.16, Metal Powder Compacting Presses
• ANSI B11.17, Horizontal Hydraulic Extrusion Presses
• ANSI B11.18, Coil Processing Systems
• ANSI B11.19, Performance of Safeguarding Criteria 
• ANSI B11.20, Manufacturing Systems/Cells
• ANSI B11.21, Machine Tools Using Lasers for Processing Materials
• ANSI B11.22, Turning Centers and CNC Turning Machines
• ANSI B11.23, Machining Centers & CNC Milling, Drilling, and Boring Machines
• ANSI B11.24, Transfer Machines
• ANSI/SPI B 151.1, Horizontal (Plastic) Injection Molding Machines
• ANSI/RIA R15.06, Industrial Robots and Robot Systems
• OSHA Control of Hazardous Energy (Lockout / Tag out / Block out)



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