Safety Guarding 101

Reducing Workplace Injuries with Safety Guarding


Jason Kerkhof

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April 4, 2023

Basics of Machine Guarding

There is no doubt that rotating machine parts can be a cause of severe workplace injuries, such as fractures, lacerations, burns, crushing, or even amputation, with hands being the most vulnerable and susceptible. Machine guards are an integral part of protecting workers from preventable injuries.

Machine guarding, in its simplest definition, is a physical barrier against rotating equipment, that prevents body parts and unwanted objects from coming into contact with dangerous parts of machinery.

When it comes to OSHA and machine guarding, it is required to have guarding for any part of a machine, function, or process that has the potential of causing injury.

Common Types of Machine Guarding

Machine guarding can be seen in 4main categories:

·        Fixed

·        Interlocked

·        Adjustable

·        Self-adjusting

Fixed machine guards area physical barrier that prevents a person from coming into contact with dangerous moving parts. The guard may be shaped to fit the machine quite closely, or it may be more like a fence around the machine. It may have openings (e.g., to allow raw material to be fed into a machine, or for routine maintenance / greasing), but these must be designed so that it is impossible to reach in and contact dangerous parts.

A fixed guard has no moving parts and should, by its design, prevent access to the dangerous parts of the machinery. It must be of robust construction and sufficient to withstand the stresses of the process and environmental conditions. If visibility or free airflow is necessary, this must be allowed for in the design and construction of the guard. If the guard can be opened or removed, this must only be possible with the aid of a tool.

Interlocked guards are designed to be removed or opened as a normal part of routine machine operation. When the guard is removed, a safety interlock system prevents machine operation. For example, a microwave oven has a hinged door on the front to allow easy access; this door is interlocked so that power to the microwave generator is shut off when it is open.

The basic principles of an interlocked guard are:

  • Power to the machine is disabled, and the machine will not operate until the guard is in place.
  • Either the guard is locked shut until it is safe for the guard to open, or the act of opening the guard stops the dangerous parts and disables power.

Adjustable and self-adjusting machine guards adjust to the size of the material or stock. Adjustable guards must be manually adjusted and locked into place, so employees who operate these guards must be trained to use them.

Machine guard barriers help guide operators in the safe use of all kinds of industrial equipment. Typically, a machine guard consists of safety trip controls, presence-sensing devices, and electromechanical sensing devices.

General Quote

Assessments Can Save Lives

In order to determine if equipment needs guarding, assessments will be your best friend. Whether this is done by an outside contractor or an employee, walking through your facility and looking at specific risks. These would include moving parts that could result in workers being struck or pulled into machinery, no matter how big or small the risk, it could be a finger that gets caught, loose clothing, or an arm. All rotating equipment should be guarded.

What Needs Guarding?

When it comes down to it, any rotating equipment needs to be guarded. The list of machines and mechanical parts that are included in rotating equipment include: belts, gears, couplings, pumps, v-belts, conveyors, shafts, they also include HVAC units, and fans.

Training Workers

While machine guards are essential in keeping workers safe, training is something that also needs to be done. Workplaces with machine guards need to make sure that workers understand the importance of these safety devices, as well as how they work according to OSHA. Staff should be trained in the proper removal and replacement of guarding for any maintenance needs there may be, as well as the skills to recognize hazards that should be reported to management.

How Belt Conveyor Guarding Can Help

At Belt Conveyor Guarding, our team of experienced guarding experts are ready to help you with your compliance inspections, a new guarding project, or just to simply answer your questions. For more information, fill out our contact us form, or give our office a call at 866-300-6668 today!