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In 2016, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), the US federal agency that enforces safety legislation, issued 2,451 violations for improper or missing machine guarding. OSHA also issues 3,414 citations for violations related to improper or missing lockout/tagout procedures. These infractions have made OSHA’s top ten list since 2012 and it’s a safe bet that they will be on the top of the list again this year.
It’s not uncommon for our salespeople to be asked “what glove will protect me from a table saw?” The simple answer is that there isn’t one. No glove will ever protect you from a blade running at 3,000 revolutions per minute. When operating a piece of moving machinery, making sure the proper safeguards are in place is the first line of defense to protect workers from injury.
“Even though this worker is wearing full PPE, there’s no guard on his grinder. Bit counter-intuitive, don’t you think?”
Machine guarding is a precautionary safety feature on moving machine parts that have the potential to cause severe injuries, from crushed fingers to amputation to death. A machine guard is a shield or device covering the hazardous area of the machine to prevent contact with body parts on keep chips from exiting the machine. These safeguards can be fixed or adjustable depending on the machine.
For the United States, OSHA outlines the general requirement for machine guarding as:
One or more methods of machine guarding shall be provided to protect the operator and other employees in the machine area from hazards such as those created by point of operation, ingoing nip points, rotating parts, flying chips and sparks. Examples of guarding methods are—barrier guards, two-hand tripping devices, electronic safety devices, etc.
Want machine guarding requirements for your specific machine? Use OSHA’s Machine Guarding eTool
When an employee is required to maintain or service equipment that could unexpectedly energize or startup and the employee could be injured, then a full system shutdown is required by using lockout/tagout.
Lockout/tagout, or lock and tag, are procedures to safeguard employees from unexpected energization or startup machinery. Lockout/tagout can also refer to preventing the release of hazardous energy (like arc flash) during equipment service or maintenance.
Lockout devices can be as simple as a combination or pad lock that keep machines in the “off” position. These locks are an easy and inexpensive way to prevent equipment from becoming energized.
Tagout devices are prominent warning signs that are used to warn employees not to re-energize a machine because someone is servicing it. They should never be used in place of a lockout device, but rather serve as a good accompaniment to quickly inform employees that a machine has been locked out.
Employees can be seriously injured if the machinery they are servicing unexpectedly starts up. OSHA’s standard on the Control of Hazardous Energy explains the steps employers must take to prevent these accidents.
If you would like to read OSHA’s standard on the Control of Hazardous Energy (Lockout/Tagout), click here.
Perhaps the consistently high number of annual OSHA lock and tag citations is due to a lack of understanding or education. But the hard and fast rule is if your employees service or maintain machines where the unexpected startup or energization could cause injury, the standard applies to you. The only exceptions are for general industry service and maintenance activities in situations when:
According to OSHA, before an employee can service or maintain a piece of equipment, they must complete the following:
When maintenance or servicing tasks are complete and an employee is ready to reenergize the equipment, the employee needs to take the following steps:
It’s incredibly important to make sure that only the employee who applied the devices remove them.
In 2012, the Ontario Ministry of Labour reported 2,648 claims for lost-time injuries were filed. Of that, 1,976 workers were caught in or compressed by equipment and 367 workers had body parts amputated. In 2013, 17% of all orders issued by Ministry of Labour were for machine guarding and lock and tag violations.
The numbers are staggering and these accidents are largely preventable. As a manager or safety officer, the best place to start is checking what procedures are currently in place and identifying concerns and opportunities for improvement. Once the procedures have been updated as needed, incorporate employees and begin regular training sessions to emphasis the importance of machine guarding and lock and tag.
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