According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics there were more than 6,200 work-related amputations in 2008. Although that number has been on the decline for over 30 years, amputations remain among the nation’s top severe workplace injuries. Workers who suffer amputation are often permanently disabled. Machine guarding is an important precaution to avoid such injury.
As lawyers who handle work-related litigation will know, OSHA requires guarding of any machine part, function, or process that may cause injury to operators or others. This standard has been around since the inception of OSHA. It remains on the agency’s list of most frequently cited regulations. There are four basic approaches to machine guarding that are available for use:
• barrier guards;
• guarding devices;
• guarding by location; and
The barrier guard is a physical barrier between a hazard and anyone near it. Since some barrier guards can slow production, they are sometimes removed in order to increase efficiency. Safety experts say the best barrier guard is one built into the machine. If a guard has to be attached to a machine, it’s absolutely necessary to use fasteners that require the use of a tool to install and remove. This will make the guard difficult to remove by a worker and is much safer.
Guarding devices include light screens, two-palm antilock push buttons, interlocks and pullbacks. These devices do not prevent a worker from touching machinery, but they will stop moving hazards before contact is made. Such devices must be installed and maintained properly to ensure maximum safety. Guarding by location, simply put, is placing machinery where no one can contact its hazards.
Neither location guarding or warnings should by themselves be the sole method of machinery guarding. Good safety experts all say guarding alone is not adequate. Good safety procedures and training should always accompany guarding in the workplace. There are companies, such as CED Investigative Technologies, with offices in New York/New England, Baltimore/Washington, Jacksonville/West Palm Beach, Greater Cleveland, and Chicago, which will have mechanical engineers and safety experts with industry experience in machine guarding. These companies should be used by employers to insure the safety of their employees to the extent possible. Also, the companies can furnish top-flight experts in the event that litigation becomes necessary because of injuries or death to workers where machine guarding is an issue.
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