Basic Overview of Machine Guarding Standard – 1910.212
When it comes to facility safety, few things are as important, or as despised, as machine guarding. Employees often look at general machine guarding as something that gets in the way of doing their job, and slows them down more than anything.
While it is certainly true that it can be a hindrance, machine guarding also helps to prevent countless accidents, injuries and even fatalities every year. That is why OSHA dedicates so much time and effort toward this one area. Section 1910.212 in OSHA’s list of standards is all about the general requirements for machines.
In this section they define different types of guarding, where guards should be placed, how they should be used, and much more. Facilities have to work hard to stay in compliance with the regulations listed in this area, but if they do, they will certainly notice that their safety is improving.
Types of Machine Guards
If you are looking to improve the safety of the machinery in your facility, or you need to do some updates to stay in compliance with OSHA standards, you’ll need to know about the different types of guards covered in the OSHA’s General Machine Guarding – 1910.212.
There are four main categories of machine guarding that you should learn about, which are:
Fixed – Fixed guards are installed directly on the machine, or may even come preinstalled. These guards are not dependent on any type of moving parts to be functional. They are typically made from plastic, screen, sheet metal, or any other material that will provide protection to those using the machine. It is easy to add vinyl labels to fixed guards. Vinyl labels can help to enhance safety as the text or pictogram printed on the label (similar to the picture on the right or the one found HERE)can also remind employees to exercise added caution when working around such equipment or machinery.
Interlocked – With this type of guard, the machine automatically disengages when the tripping mechanism is triggered. It may remove all the power, or simply turn the machine off. The machine will be unable to operate again until the tripping mechanism is back in place.
Adjustable – This type of guard can be adjusted depending on a variety of factors, including the type of stock being used in a machine. This is a good choice for many machines that perform a variety of different functions.
Self-Adjusting – With a self-adjusting guard, the barrier is determined by the stock that is being used in the machine. For example, as a particular item is advanced toward the dangerous area of the machine, the guard is moved, which makes an opening only large enough for the stock to move through. Once it passes, the guard goes back to the reset or neutral position.
Finding out which types of guard will work best for the machines in your facility can take some work, but it will be well worth it in the end.
When can Machine Guarding be removed?
Machine guarding should be left in place as much as possible to ensure everyone is protected. There will be times, however, when it must be removed or disabled for one reason or another. Rather than denying this fact, it is important to set the standards for when this occurs, and why.
One great example of when this may happen is during routine maintenance. The people who service machines will need to get into restricted areas that are protected by the guarding in order to clean or inspect certain parts. When this happens, they should follow standard lockout/tagout procedures to ensure they remain safe while working on the machine.
Before disabling or removing the guarding, they should physically remove power from the machine, so it can’t engage accidently. In addition, a good lockout/tagout policy will have them put a physical barrier on restoring power, which is locked with a key that only the maintenance personal have. This will allow them to work on the machine, with virtually no risk of injury.
Encouraging Employee Acceptance
Whenever adding new guards to machinery there will be pushback from some employees. Guards tend to make it somewhat more difficult to do their day to day job because it restricts the types of things people can do with machinery.
Of course, one of the things that is restricted is the ability to get hurt in many cases, so it is more than a fair trade off. Getting employees to see this benefit is an important part of any new machine guarding strategy.
There are many different ways a company can encourage acceptance of new safety measures, but few of them are as effective as providing training on how to properly use the new guards. In most cases, once people get used to the guards they won’t find them too inconvenient at all. It is just getting them through the initial changing period that can be difficult.
OSHA estimates the Lockout/Tagout standard prevents 120 fatalities and 50,000 injuries annually. This FREE guide provides a 5-step plan for Lockout/Tagout compliance, as well as other information regarding LOTO practices.
Included in the training should be an explanation of what types of things can happen when the guards are not in place. Many machines in facilities can be extremely dangerous, and injuries can be very serious, so explaining this can be an effective way to get people on board.
Maintaining the Guarding
Just like all other parts of a facility, machine guarding can get damaged or broken over time. When this occurs, the safety level in the facility immediately drops. This is why it is important to have a regular maintenance schedule for the guarding systems, as well as a reporting system for when people find problems.
Responding to any type of damage or malfunction within any machine guarding system will help ensure the facility remains safe at all times.
Another potential problem that can be caused by the guards on the machines is if they lock the machine down due to a malfunction. When, for example, an interlocked machine guard malfunctions and thinks that the tripping mechanism has been tripped, even when it hasn’t.
Since the machine won’t re-engage until it is fixed, this can cause significant downtime, which no facility can afford to have. Keeping all types of machine guarding in proper working order will help reduce the chances of this type of thing happening in your facility. If it does happen, however, make sure it is fixed quickly, and safely, so work can begin flowing like it should.
Machine Guarding is Not Enough
While general machine guarding can go a long way toward keeping everyone in the facility safer, it is really not enough on its own, and it is important that everyone understands that. Installing machine guards can give employees a sense of security that they will be safe no matter what they do with or around the machines.
In reality, however, no type of machine guarding can be 100% effective at preventing all accidents and injuries. It is still the job of employees to make responsible decisions whenever working with any type of machinery. For example, wearing clothing that is loose and can get caught in a machine is not a good idea.
Just keep in mind, while machine guarding is an excellent way to keep everyone safe, it is certainly no substitute for common sense and caution. Since machine guarding is simply not enough, the addition of industrial labels can also help. An industrial label printer (like one of our LabelTac printers) can print specific safety labels to also help remind employees to help keep awareness up and use caution around hazardous machinery.
So, whether you’re just looking into machine guarding for the first time, or you want to try to take your facility’s guarding to the next level, a great place to start is by reading the OSHA General Machine Guarding – 1910.212 section. It won’t take you long to read, and it will help you to better understand what is expected from you and your facility in order to remain in compliance.
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