Special Topics in Safety Management

Guard Employee Safety with Machine Guards

Crushed hands and arms, severed fingers and limbs, lacerations and abrasions—the list of possible machinery-related injuries is long and gruesome. Safeguards are essential for protecting workers from these injuries.

Undetected or unprotected machine hazards and insufficient or inadequate training on machine safety features and procedures results in thousands of injuries every year—some disabling, some fatal, and all avoidable.

Among the most important proactive safety measures you can take to protect employees from machine hazards is to make sure machinery is properly guarded.

OSHA identifies the purpose of machine guarding as protecting machine operators and other employees in the work area from hazards created by:

  • Ingoing nip points
  • Rotating parts
  • Cutting or stamping motion
  • Other moving parts


Point-of-operation guards are required by 29 CFR 1910.212(a)(3) and must prevent the operator from having any part of his or her body in the danger zone during the machine’s operating cycle.

Machines that usually require point-of-operation guarding include:

  • Guillotine cutters
  • Shears
  • Alligator shears
  • Power presses
  • Milling machines 
  • Power saws
  • Jointers
  • Portable power tools
  • Forming rolls and calenders

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A guard enclosure interlocked with the drive mechanism is required for revolving barrels, containers, and drums so that the barrel, gun, or container cannot revolve unless the guard enclosure is in place [29 CFR 1910.212(a)(4)].

Fan blade guards are required when the periphery of the blades is less than 7 feet above the floor or working level. The guard must not have openings larger than one-half inch [29 CFR 1910.212(a)(5)].

Here’s a good rule to remember: Any machine part, function, or process that many cause injury must be safeguarded. When the operation of a machine or accidental contact with it can injure the operator or others in the vicinity, the hazards must be either controlled or eliminated.

Point-of-Operation Safeguarding Options

For hazards at the point of operation, where moving parts actually perform work on stock, several kinds of safeguarding may be possible. You must always choose the most effective and practical means available.

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Generally speaking, you can group point-of-operation safeguards under five general classifications:

  • Guards, including fixed, interlocked, adjustable, and self-adjusting.
  • Devices, including presence sensing (e.g., photoelectrical, radiofrequency, electromechanical), pullback, restraint, safety controls (e.g., pressure-sensitive body bars, safety tripods, safety tripwire cables, two-hand controls, and two-hand trips) and gates (e.g., interlocked and other types of enclosures).
  • Location/distance methods, which keep workers a safe distance from hazards.
  • Feeding and ejection methods, such as automatic feed, semi-automatic feed, automatic ejection, semi-automatic ejection, and robots.
  • Miscellaneous aids, such as awareness barriers, protective shields, hand-feeding tools, and holding fixtures.