Safeguarding Machinery Protects Workers and Saves Lives

OSHA Blog Image - safeguarding machineryEmployee exposure to unguarded or inadequately guarded machines is a common workplace hazard, resulting in over 800 deaths and approximately 18,000 amputations, lacerations, crushing injuries and abrasions per year. Amputation is one of the most severe and crippling workplace injuries, most often leading to permanent disability.

Employers are responsible for safeguarding machines. Any machine part, function or process with the potential for causing injury must be safeguarded using control methods that prevent employee contact with hazardous areas through effective machine guarding techniques. Almost all new machinery is available with safeguards installed by the manufacturer, but used or older equipment may require either purchasing additional safeguards or building and installing them in-house.

Guards and devices need to be compatible with a machine’s operation and designed to ensure safe operator use. Safeguards should be designed with the machine operator in mind as a guarding method that interferes with the operation of the machine may cause employees to override it.

Two primary methods are used to safeguard machines: guards and safeguarding devices. Guards provide physical barriers that prevent access to dangerous areas. Safeguarding devices either prevent or detect operator contact with the point of operation or stop potentially hazardous machine motion if any part of a worker’s body is within the hazardous portion of the machine. Both methods of machine safeguarding should:

  • Prevent employee contact with the hazard area during machine operation
  • Avoid creating additional hazards
  • Be secure, tamper-resistant and durable
  • Avoid interfering with normal operation of the machine
  • Allow for safe lubrication and maintenance

All machine safeguards need to be properly designed, constructed, installed, used and maintained in good operating condition to ensure maximum employee protection.

OSHA offers many resources to help employers maintain the highest standards of machinery safeguarding, including Safeguarding Equipment and Protecting Employees from Amputations and a Machine Guarding eTool.

The OSHA Training Center is offering OSHA 2045 – Machinery and Machine Guarding Standards on June 7-10, 2016, in Dublin, California, conveniently located in the San Francisco Bay Area. The 4-day class provides participants the opportunity to learn to recognize hazards and identify options for abatement, including for mechanical motions, actions created by points of operation and other machinery processes.

For more information and to register, visit the OSHA Training Center website.


  1. I didn’t know that safeguards and guards were different; thanks for explaining how the difference. I have heard of some people getting their hands crushed in conveyor belts due to a lack of guarding; usually the company ends up paying a lot of money for the injury. In the end I think it’s cheaper for any company to lose a little bit of money buying guards than to have to deal with an accident.

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