Safety guards are physical barriers that are constructed around moving parts and potentially dangerous machinery. Designed to protect workers from any preventable injuries related with the operation of machinery, safety guards come in various forms. Many safety guards are specifically designed to meet the safety needs of a particular device or mechanism.
Safety guards can be made of various materials, including metals, plastics and wood. Which material is used depends on what machine the safety guard is protecting workers from. For example, machines that require the operator to have a clear line of sight with the product being machined, such as lathe guards, are usually a clear but sturdy plastic. Machine guard fencing options do not need to be clear though, since they protect the whole machine while it is not in use. Common metals used include corrosion resistant but light weight and flexible metals such as aluminum or stainless steel. However, in environments where excessive amounts of chemicals are in contact with the guards, a more naturally corrosion resistant material like wood would be preferred. Machines that require safety guards include drill presses, lathes, milling machines and any other piece of machining equipment that involves cutting teeth, rotating parts, moving belts or meshing gears. Some of the injuries that can result from work with machinery include burns, broken bones, blindness, deep cuts and amputation.
OSHA, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, is a government agency that has set specific standards concerning the institution and use of safety guards in industrial plants. In complying with OSHA regulations, manufacturers protect themselves from potentially expensive lawsuits. Regulations include the definition of four major machine guard categories as well as five guidelines that are a necessity in the purchase and application of a machine guard. Adjustable, self-adjusting, fixed and interlocked are the styles, referring mostly to how the guards relate to the machines. Self-adjusting guards are automatic and able to adjust on their own, while the regular adjusting machine guards must be moved by hand. Fixed guards are permanently attached to part of the machine while interlocked guards are connected electronically to the machine and therefore able to shut-off the system if the barrier is crossed. In short, the regulations that are legally enforced for every machining company involve thorough protection of every dangerous element in a machine, a dependable anchoring system for the guard, high impact strength, room for the machine to be lubricated and they must not interfere with the quality and speed of the product being produced.