A machine guard is an additional barrier used to protect workers from any dangers while operating a potentially dangerous machine. Any equipment that poses a risk to the safety and health of the worker requires a guard. Machine guards are used to reduce the hazards caused by rotating points, sparks, flying objects, nip points, points of operation and other machine hazards. Occupational Health and Safety standards require the use of machine guards to prevent employees from encountering these hazards. If you do not install safety guards on your machinery, you could be risking the safety of your workers, which could lead to workplace accidents.
While the OHS Standards use the word “protector” to define a physical barrier that shields employees, we will use the term “guard” to refer to such a device. However, in this article, the term “guard” applies to general guard requirements and not specialised barrier requirements for particular equipment like grinders, abrasive wheels and saws.
Selecting an appropriate machine safety guard
Occupational Health and Safety standards require businesses of every type to use machine guards to protect workers from injuries and to protect the equipment from damage.
Installing a guard at various points of danger will not only help to prevent injuries, but will also allow your machine to operate smoothly and efficiently. After a replacement service, always install the guard before using it as it is essential to operate the equipment only with the barrier to prevent accidents from occurring.
Now that you know what a machine guard is and why it is essential to install it, here are a few tips that will help you select the right barrier for your machine or what to look for if you are considering a replacement.
- Does it shield employees from hazards?
OHS standards require that safety guards be efficient, adequate and able to carry out their functions correctly. Failure to do so means that your company is in violation of OHS regulations. Therefore, if your existing guard is old or faulty, you must get a replacement as soon as possible.
Ensure that the new guard you select shields your employees from:
- Moving parts
- Pinch points
- Open flames
- Points of operation
- Items falling inside
- Any flying glass particles
- Other flying objects
- Electrically charged points
- Power transmission points
- Surfaces with dangerous temperatures that could cause burns or blisters or any other dangers caused by the equipment.
- Does it follow the appropriate standards?
It is essential to select a guard specifically designed to prevent body parts coming near hazardous points in the machine. Safety guards should also:
- Not create additional dangers for the workers
- Be at an appropriate distance from the equipment
- Have a robust construction
- Allow cleaning and maintenance without removal
- Cause minimal vision obstruction
- Not be easy to make non-operational
- And should follow the design requirements for particular types of guards (e.g. fixed barriers, mat systems, movable barriers, light curtains, and interlocking devices)
If it doesn’t meet these requirements, you may need to replace the guard with a more appropriate one
- Does it create additional dangers?
Since the main goal for a safety barrier is to protect your employees from danger and your equipment from damage, it is essential for the guard to not create or add any new hazards.
Although the guard needs to be a physical barrier between the danger point and the worker, it should not obstruct the operator or make them stand in an awkward position to carry out the operation. This could protect them from the danger of encountering a cutting edge, but it might cause a musculoskeletal injury.
- Does it interfere with the usability of the equipment?
The right safety barrier shouldn’t interfere with the normal operation of the machine. A safety guard should allow the operator to use the equipment without directly coming in contact with danger points without making it hard for the operator to correctly use the machine.
The operator should be able to comfortably and efficiently use the well-protected equipment without any issue of obstruction. While it can be tough to select a barrier that doesn’t impact the usability a little, you should always choose a guard that has minimal impact on the usability of the machine. If you currently have a barrier that is making it hard for your workers to operate, it is time to get a replacement.
- Can it be removed easily?
It is essential to choose a barrier that won’t make it difficult for the worker to operate the machine. A guard that affects usability may be an inconvenience to the operator and they may be tempted to try to remove it.
Therefore, you should always opt for a barrier that allows smooth usage of the equipment and is impossible to remove without the right tools.
- Can it be maintained without removal?
A safety guard should allow the worker to clean and maintain the machine without having to remove the guard. Keep in mind that after removing it to clean or maintain the machine, the chances that they might forget to re-install it or not fix it securely are high, which could result in an accident.
Therefore, ensure the barrier that you select allows effortless cleaning and maintenance without removal.
To make your workplace a safe environment and ensure the safety and good health of your employees, it is essential to install barriers on your equipment. Doing so will not only allow safe operation of your equipment but it will also save your time and money on any potential lawsuits.