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Guard Your Workers: 5 Easy Solutions for Machine Safety

23 February, 2023

Powerful machines have severe hazards. Improperly guarded machines each year cause:

  • 18,000 amputations
  • 800 deaths
  • $10.7 million in fines last year.

Improper use of machine guards is one of the leading causes of abrasions, lacerations and crushing. Yet replacement costs and lost productivity lead many facilities to operate with missing or damaged guards. Workers and management might even think that removing the guard will make the machine work faster.


Shortcuts Can Cost More

In a perfect world, all tools and equipment in a facility will be new and in good repair. Damaged machinery ends up with broken or missing guards. The choice to delay repair or replacement will save some money for now, but jury-rigging equipment and cutting corners with machinery will cost more in the end. Improper machine guarding routinely makes OSHA's list of the top 10 most common citations.

A manufacturer in Florida was cited for removing guards during production, causing a worker to suffer a partial hand amputation. "Management made a conscious decision to remove guards on three machines that exposed workers to dangerous metal shears," said OSHA Area Office Director Michelle Gonzalez in Jacksonville, Florida. "They put profits over their employees' safety and a young worker is permanently disabled."

5 Tips for Machine Safety

Machines move in a variety of ways including articulated motions (robots) that can be hard to predict. When changes are made to machinery in the workforce, safety can be overlooked. Use these helpful tips to improve worker safety:

  1. Take time for repairs: Promptly repair or replace essential safety measures for machines and equipment.
  2. Install proper guards: Make sure guards, fasteners, and other materials are for the machine or equipment. Never remove guards to alter the performance of a worker or machine.
  3. Train for safe use: All employees working with and around a piece of equipment should be trained on the hazards the machine represents, including emergency shutdown procedures.
  4. Identify machine hazards: Install safety labels and warning signs around the dangerous areas of a machine. These visual cues also improve OSHA compliance.
  5. Require PPE: While machine and equipment safeguards are in place, debris and other hazards are still present. Ensure workers have access to and use adequate personal protection equipment such as eyewear, hearing protection, gloves, and face shields.

Make Safety Simple

Maintain hazard awareness through visual communication.

  • Warning signs  Identify specific machine hazards and required PPE.  
  • Safety labels  Highlight danger spots and shutdown controls
  • Floor tape and signs  Communicate work zones and safe pathways.

Make machine and equipment evaluations routine. Use a job hazard analysis report malfunctions, near misses, and other concerns. Use the findings to prepare frequent toolbox talks and training. Address machine and equipment safety with workers by going over proper work etiquette, guards, maintenance, and potential problems. Protect your workers with a wide range of safety signage and other helpful tools from DuraLabel.