Machine guarding protects workers from preventable injuries due to
moving parts in industrial environments. Machine guards are structures
that shelter machine operators from accidental contact with potentially
dangerous mechanisms. These protective mechanisms come in a variety of
shapes and sizes, depending on what type of machine and debris it is
protecting workers from.
Some of the injuries that can result from work with machinery include burns, broken bones, amputation, blindness and deep cuts. For this reason, any part of the machine that could harm a worker should have machine guarding around it. There is such a large variety of machine guarding style, that regardless of the shape or size of the machine, it is possible to protect its operators from its dangerous aspects. Machine guarding can be made from various materials, including metals, plastics and wood. Because of its strength, metals such as iron, stainless steel and aluminum are most commonly used, but plastic and wood are preferred in applications where corrosion is a concern. If the guard is going to get in the way of a workers line of sight, it is commonly a clear plastic that is utilized, which is true for most drill press guards, milling machine guards and chuck guards. If a company wants all of its employees to keep their distance from a particular automated machine, even when it is off, there are a couple options. One would be a metal frame and metal mesh plates that make a machine guard fence, while another option would be the invisible infrared light system called safety light curtains.
OSHA, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, is a governmental agency that creates standards for workplace safety measures. OSHA has developed and implemented specific standards concerning the use of machine guards in industrial settings, as well as classifying them into four major categories. These regulations must be followed by any machine owning company, because they are legally required. Regardless of the application, machine guards must adhere to the following five OSHA requirements. All contact with dangerous components of the machinery must be guarded against and the guards themselves must be secured; the machine guard must be attached to the machine itself, or anchored to the walls or ground. High impact strength is also necessary for the machine guards to always stay in place. They must all protect workers from falling and flying objects and create no new hazards. Machine guards must not create an interference that could slow down the manufacturing or fabrication process, or create difficulty for any workers. Finally, since many machines must be regularly lubricated to work properly, machine guards cannot inhibit, but should rather allow plenty of room for a machine to be safely and easily lubricated.