Statistics from OSHA show that exposure to unguarded or inadequately guarded equipment results in approximately 800 fatalities and 18,000 amputations, lacerations, abrasions, and rushing injuries every year. There is one thing that all of these incidents have in common, they could have all been prevented.
As a company that focuses solely on machine guarding and safety, we take these injuries personally. EVERYONE knows that dangerous rotating equipment should be guarded, but all too often guards are left off of the equipment, set aside, are damaged, or the hazard lacked guarding entirely.
We have five suggestions that can truly help ensure guards are used properly, as well as employees stay safe.
1. Make sure all guards are in place
This is obvious, but on many of our assessments we find that employee stake guards off for routine maintenance or because it was in the way, and never put it back on. Guards cannot keep people safe if they are not in place. Consider adding a guard check to your routine safety inspections to ensure all guards are being put back.
2. Guards should be ergonomic and maintenance-friendly
When picking or designing your guards, you need to consider how these guards will need to function. Does the entire front need to be removable, or would an easy access window suffice? How large or heavy is the removable panel? Are there handles for removing? What fasteners are being used? These are all questions you should be asking while shopping around and selecting guarding for your specific application.
3. Training for employees
Assumptions should never be made when it comes to worker safety. Just because an employee takes a guard off, it doesn’t mean that they will replace it. When it comes to manufacturing, productivity is such an important KPI that is looked at, safety can sometimes be overlooked. Train employees to replace guards every time, make this expectation clear, and hold people accountable.
4. Paint it bright
Make non-compliant and safety issues easily visible. This can be applied to machine guarding by making your guards stand out from the surrounding equipment. The bright colors of the guards can be seen from distance away, so if this is placed off to the side, or not secured and covering the hazard, it can be addressed and replaced immediately.
5. Address problems
Listen to your employees. If there is a consistent complaint or reasoning for not replacing a guard, there might be an opportunity to re-engineer the problem.
In the end, the entire purpose of guarding is to protect your workers from the hazards of rotating equipment. There is no doubt that guarding does prevent injuries, but education and work on the employers part needs to be put in as well.
If you are looking to undertake a new guarding project, or want are looking to have an assessment of your existing guarding, reach out to us!