Five Potentially Fatal Machine Guarding Problems

Related: Machine Guarding & Machine Guarding at Schools

Every year in Canada approximately 2,500 people are injured because of machine related incidents. That’s a large number of injuries that are so easily preventable.
So what can you do to prevent your employees and company from contributing to this statistic? The answer is simple, Machine Guarding. Unfortunately, many organizations either do not machine guard their equipment or simply do not install it correctly. With that in mind, here are Five Serious Machine Guarding Problems:

  1. Lack of Understanding Where Machine Guarding Requirements are Concerned

Many employers either do not know or do not fully understand what exactly is required  to fully ensure a machine is safely guarded to meet OSHA / OHSA requirements. If you fall into this category, review this article or our previous blog post about the Machine Safety Blitz.  

  1. Improper Design or Installation

Inexperienced designers and installers may make mistakes when installing or servicing your machine guarding equipment. Therefore, it is important to select a company with reputable experience in hazard assessment and onsite evaluations.

  1. Failure to Consider All Risks

A comprehensive machine guarding process should consider all inputs, not just from the guard designer, but also from the machine operators, maintenance personnel, supervisors, engineers, safety professionals, machine guarding experts and of course the original equipment manufacturer.

  1. Inadequate Controls to Ensure Guards are Adjusted & Maintained

You may, in the beginning, have well-designed guards and devices in place and they may initially be properly adjusted to your machine. However, without regular inspections and maintenance, over time the machine guard can fail becoming a hazard in itself. 

  1. A belief that the Manufacturer is Responsible for Machine Guarding

The original equipment manufacturer has many safety responsibilities, but you cannot assume that they have installed an appropriate machine guard for your company that will meet all safety standards currently in place. It is up to you, the employer to ensure that all machines under your care are properly guarded and serviced to prevent accidents from occurring.

BONUS: Are You Guilty of One of These? Six Common Excuses Used to Avoid Machine Guarding.

  1. “It’ll never happen at our plant”

Here is a statistic for you. From 2002 to 2006 machines fatally wounded 223 Canadian workers. In this same period, 36,066 injuries occurred within the manufacturing industry alone, and the main cause of these injuries? Improperly guarded machines.

  1. “We had to remove the guards because they were hard to work with”

If you are in a position where you cannot use the machine because of the machine guard, there is a high chance that it was not properly installed. If this is the case, then call a professional to ensure the machine guard is properly installed or to reinstall it.

  1. “The law only applies if I buy new equipment”

“According to health and safety law, if you bought a machine in 1980 and it was built to 1980 standards and you’re still using it today, there’s no requirement to rebuild it to that standard. As long as you don’t replace it, technically you don’t have to add safety features to it” (see article here).

This little loophole will save you a dollar now. But when someone is hurt on one of your machines and they file a lawsuit, you are going to wish you had taken all of the precautions ahead of time to avoid this. In addition, an incident such as this could  damage your business’s reputation.

  1. “Safety is a luxury we can’t afford”

You have to look at the bigger picture. The upfront cost of machine guarding may seem large, but if you consider the probability of something going wrong and a potentially large lawsuit to go with it, the cost of procuring machine guarding is pretty small by comparison.

  1. “We can’t be productive if our machines are guarded’

A properly installed a machine guarding system will not inhibit production, but it will improve worker protection. Production will return to normal speed once your employees re-learn how to use the machine with the guard in place. 

  1. “We don’t need help”

It is not a simple task to retrofit old equipment or install brand new equipment to have machine guarding which is properly installed. This is why it’s best to find a professional who can install your safety equipment properly and safely. 

Here are the top four reasons to make an investment in machine guarding:

  1. To help avoid fines that could be levied against your business for not having machine guarding.
  2. To help prevent injuries from occurring on machines in your workplace.
  3. To ensure your business won’t be hit with medical expenses, increased insurance premiums and other hidden costs if an injury did occur because of a machine that wasn’t guarded.
  4. To keep you stay in compliance with all current regulations and standards. This is why properly following the machine guarding process is so important and why it is best to be completed by a professional.

Safe work practices are always the best way to ensure that no one is hurt in your workplace; which is why it is so important to make sure your machines have the proper safety precaution and that they are properly maintained. You could have the best safety procedure in place, and everyone may follow them, but mistakes and accidents do happen. If your machines are not properly guarded, you or your employees could be at risk of something a lot more serious than a bill from a machine guarding company. 

Have you had an issue using machine guarding? Have you been injured by a lack of machine guarding? If you have any tips or stories you want to share about machine guarding please comment below.