Safety Guarding 101

12 Misconceptions When it Comes to Machine Safeguarding


Jason Kerkhof

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January 24, 2023

The goal of every piece of machine guarding is to keep workers safe and out of harm’s way. In this blog, we will address twelve common misconceptions when it comes to machine safeguarding.

#1 – It’s complicated

When it comes down to it the concept is easy, if a moving part on a machine may be touched and cause an injury, then that part must be guarded. An easy way to remember this is through the acronym AUTO: Workers must not be able to reach Around, Under, Through, or Over a guard to reach the danger zone of machines.

OSHA’s general guarding requirements for all machines at 1910.212(a)(1)expands on the simple concept to require: “One or more methods of machine guarding shall be provided to protect the operator and other employees in the machine area from hazards such as those created by point of operation, ingoing nip points, rotating parts, flying chips and sparks.” 

#2 – Safety is a one and done thing

Unfortunately, this is not the case. Safety is an ongoing requirement, and companies should have regular risk assessments performed on their machines to ensure that they meet the most recent safety standards.

When looking for an assessment provider, you should look for a team that is comprised of safety experts or engineers rather than sales professionals. You want a service provider that has a wealth of knowledge when it comes to machine guarding laws and regulations.

#3 – Administrative controls and employee safety training can replace good engineering

Again, this is something that can put an employee in harms way. The foundation of machine safety consists of a combination of knowledge, training, and physical guards. Administrative controls and employee safety training are necessary and helpful, but they should not be the only things standing between your employees and a potentially fatal injury.

#4 – Older machines can be ‘grandfathered in’, so no need to safeguard

This is just blatantly false, when it comes to safety, and your employee’s life, you can’t simply ‘grandfather’ something in. NO equipment is exempt from current machine-guarding standards.

#5 – New equipment is built compliant

As nice as this would be, new equipment is rarely compliant without adding after market guards. Sometimes equipment manufacturers can add guarding if it is specified in the design process.

#6 – Ministry of Labor was just at your facility, and didn’t say anything about a specific set of machines, so those machines must be compliant

You shouldn’t assume this. An inspector is a human after all and mistakes and oversights can be made. It’s possible another inspector could come out and notice something that was missed before.

#7 – CSA and ANSI standards are law

This isn’t exactly true, since legislation and standards are separate things. While legislation is the law, a standard is a guideline that can be used to demonstrate compliance with the law. So a law could reference a standard which would make it mandatory.

#8 – If a machine is moved to a new location there is no need to do another risk assessment

This one could be a maybe, but depending on the complexity of the machine, moving it to a new location could create a requirement for a new risk assessment. Maybe an additional side is exposed, it’s angled different so there are pinch-points accessible…it’s always safest to do the assessment.

#9 – You have several of the same machine, so you only have to do a single risk assessment

This one is similar to #8, it depends on the complexity of the specific machine. Even the seemingly insignificant differences between machines and their positioning relative to one another could change the outcome of a risk assessment.

#10 – Smaller companies are exempt from machine safeguarding

As nice as this would be for smaller companies, unfortunately it is not true. While fines themselves might be smaller, you are still subject to the same machine guarding laws as the big players. All companies are required to safeguard their machines properly and protect the lives and well being of their employees.

#11 – With a lack of machine guarding the worst that will happen is the company will pay a fine

This is sadly a common misconception, as many executives and supervisors falsely believe that they can’t be held personally responsible for accidents that may occur. In Canada specifically, Bill C-45 amended the Canadian Criminal Code imposing serious penalties for violations that result in injuries or death. It attributed criminal liability for these violations to corporations, their representatives and those who direct the work of others. This means that executives CAN actually do prison time for failing to protect the safety of their employees. In addition, the direct supervisor CAN be held personally responsible and may need to pay a fine.

#12 – Safety is too expensive, and it reduces productivity and efficiency by adding extra steps

THIS RIGHT HERE, this is the big myth that we want to debunk in this blog. Let’s get one thing straight, safety measures save lives, AND can save money in the long run by helping to avoid expensive and traumatic incidents. Although the upfront cost will be hefty, it shouldn’t deter facility leaders from implementing safety solutions. The cost of a single accident – in terms of fines, worker compensation, lost productivity, and poor morale – could be several times the initial investment cost.