Safety Guarding 101

A Guide to OSHA Regulations on Machine Guarding


Jason Kerkhof

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September 20, 2023

In industrial and manufacturing settings, machines play a vital role in boosting productivity and efficiency. However, the presence of machines also poses potential hazards to workers. According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), machine-related injuries are among the most common in the workplace. To address these risks, OSHA has established strict regulations regarding machine guarding to protect workers from harm. In this blog, we will delve into the importance of machine guarding and provide an overview of OSHA's regulations to ensure safety remains a top priority in any industrial setting.


Understanding the Significance of Machine Guarding

Machine guarding is the practice of enclosing or covering hazardous machine parts to prevent accidental contact, thereby reducing the risk of injury. These protective barriers serve as a crucial line of defense against various hazards, such as rotating parts, sharp edges, flying debris, and electrical components. The primary goal of machine guarding is to prevent workers from coming into direct contact with dangerous areas during machine operation, maintenance, and repair activities.


OSHA Regulations on Machine Guarding

OSHA has laid out specific requirements for machine guarding under its General Industry Standard 29 CFR 1910.212. These regulations are designed to provide a safe working environment for employees and can be summarized as follows:


1. Point of Operation Guarding

OSHA requires machines with moving parts that may cause injury to have appropriate guards. The point of operation refers to the area where the machine performs its intended function, such as cutting, shearing, or bending. Guards must be securely fixed and prevent any part of the worker's body from reaching into the point of operation.


2. Power Transmission Guarding

Machines with power transmission components, such as pulleys, belts, chains, and gears, must have guarding to protect workers from potential entanglement or pinch points. The guards should enclose these moving parts entirely to minimize the risk of contact.


3. Hazardous Non-Power-Transmission Parts

In addition to power transmission components, other hazardous parts like hot surfaces or electrical connections must also be guarded to prevent injuries.


4. Control and Disconnect Devices

OSHA mandates that machines have easily accessible and clearly labeled control and disconnect devices. These devices enable workers to quickly stop the machine's operation in case of an emergency.


5. Special Purpose Machines

Machines designed for specific tasks or processes should have guards that cater to their unique hazards, ensuring protection against all potential risks.


6. Training and Awareness

Employers are responsible for providing training to workers on the proper use and limitations of machine guards. Workers must be made aware of the dangers associated with specific machines and understand the procedures for reporting any issues with machine guarding.


7. Regular Inspection and Maintenance

Machine guards should be inspected regularly to ensure they remain in good working condition. Any damaged or malfunctioning guards should be repaired or replaced promptly to maintain a safe work environment.


If you wanted to read through the regulations themselves:

Machine guarding -

Types of guarding.
 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. Examples of guarding methods are - barrier guards, two-hand tripping devices, electronic safety devices, etc.

General requirements for machine guards.
 Guards shall be affixed to the machine where possible and secured elsewhere if for any reason attachment to the machine is not possible. The guard shall be such that it does not offer an accident hazard in itself.

Point of operation guarding.

Point of operation is the area on a machine where work is actually performed upon the material being processed.

The point of operation of machines whose operation exposes an employee to injury, shall be guarded. The guarding device shall be in conformity with any appropriate standards therefor, or, in the absence of applicable specific standards, shall be so designed and constructed as to prevent the operator from having any part of his body in the danger zone during the operating cycle.

Special hand tools for placing and removing material shall be such as to permit easy handling of material without the operator placing a hand in the danger zone. Such tools shall not be in lieu of other guarding required by this section, but can only be used to supplement protection provided.

The following are some of the machines which usually require point of operation guarding:

Guillotine cutters.


Alligator shears.

Power presses.

Milling machines.

Power saws.


Portable power tools.

Forming rolls and calenders.

Barrels, containers, and drums.
 Revolving drums, barrels, and containers shall be guarded by an enclosure which is interlocked with the drive mechanism, so that the barrel, drum, or container cannot revolve unless the guard enclosure is in place.

Exposure of blades.
 When the periphery of the blades of a fan is less than seven (7) feet above the floor or working level, the blades shall be guarded. The guard shall have openings no larger than one-half (½)inch.

Anchoring fixed machinery
. Machines designed for a fixed location shall be securely anchored to prevent walking or moving.


Machine guarding is a critical aspect of workplace safety, and compliance with OSHA regulations is non-negotiable. Employers must prioritize the implementation of effective machine guarding to protect their workers from potential injuries or even fatalities. Regular training and awareness programs, combined with proper inspection and maintenance, will go a long way in fostering a culture of safety in industrial settings. By adhering to OSHA's regulations on machine guarding, employers demonstrate their commitment to the well-being of their workforce, ensuring a safer and more productive work environment for all.