Safety Guarding 101

Ensuring Safety and Efficiency: Design Considerations for Machine Guarding


Jason Kerkhof

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July 12, 2023

In today's industrial landscape, the presence of machines and equipment is ubiquitous. From manufacturing plants to mines, these powerful tools play a crucial role in driving productivity and innovation. However, their operation also carries inherent risks, making machine guarding an essential aspect of workplace safety. The design considerations of machine guarding are paramount in ensuring the protection of workers, preventing accidents, and promoting operational efficiency. In this blog, we will explore key factors to consider when designing machine guarding systems, some of which are often overlooked.


Identifying Hazards

Before designing machine guarding systems, it is crucial to conduct a thorough hazard assessment. Identifying potential hazards allows designers to understand the risks associated with machinery, including moving parts, high temperatures, electrical components, and material ejections. By comprehensively assessing these risks, designers can develop appropriate guarding solutions tailored to specific machines and work environments.


Compliance with Regulations

Machine guarding design must adhere to relevant safety regulations and standards, such as those set by OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) and ANSI (American National Standards Institute). These regulations provide guidelines for the design, installation, and maintenance of machine guarding systems. Compliance with such regulations ensures that safety measures are implemented effectively, mitigating risks and promoting a safe work environment.


Compatibility with Workflow

While safety is paramount, machine guarding should not hinder workflow or impede productivity. Designers must strike a balance between ensuring adequate protection and allowing workers to efficiently interact with machines. This involves considering ergonomic factors, such as providing sufficient access points for maintenance and adjustments, incorporating visual indicators, and optimizing the layout to facilitate smooth operations.


Material Selection

Choosing the appropriate materials for machine guarding is crucial. Guards should be made of durable materials capable of withstanding the machine's working environment. Factors such as impact resistance, corrosion resistance, and temperature tolerance should be considered during material selection. Additionally, guards must be designed to minimize the risk of creating secondary hazards, such as sharp edges or protrusions that may cause injury. Another aspect to consider would be the weight of guards, especially if they will need to be removed regularly for maintenance.


Interlock Systems

Interlock systems are mechanisms that prevent machines from operating when the guarding system is compromised or not properly closed. Incorporating interlock systems in machine guarding design adds an additional layer of safety by ensuring that hazardous machinery cannot be accessed during operation. Interlocks may include electrical or mechanical switches that interrupt power or signal the machine's control system to stop operations when the guarding is opened.


Visibility and Signage

Machine guarding should provide clear visibility of the machine's operation without compromising safety. Black mesh is easier to see through and allows workers to observe the processes while preventing contact with hazardous components. Additionally, incorporating appropriate signage and warnings helps communicate the potential risks associated with the machine, enhancing overall safety awareness among workers.


Maintenance and Inspection

Designing machine guarding systems with maintenance and inspection in mind is crucial for long-term effectiveness. Guards should be easily removable or openable for routine maintenance and cleaning tasks. Quick-release fasteners or access panels can facilitate efficient inspections, reducing downtime and ensuring the guarding system remains intact and functional.


Training and Education

No matter how well-designed the machine guarding system may be, it is essential to provide comprehensive training and education to workers. Employees should receive thorough instruction on the purpose and proper use of machine guarding, as well as the potential risks associated with specific machines. Regular training sessions and refresher courses can help reinforce safety practices and ensure workers understand how to utilize the guarding system effectively.



Machine guarding design is a critical aspect of workplace safety, aiming to protect workers from hazardous machinery while maintaining operational efficiency. By identifying potential hazards, complying with regulations, considering workflow compatibility, selecting appropriate materials, incorporating interlock systems, ensuring visibility, facilitating maintenance, and providing training, designers can create smart guarding options that protect workers and streamline routine maintenance procedures.