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Machine Guarding – For What It’s Worth!

Andrea Rowe has been a Safety and Risk Advisor with Safety Action Pty Ltd for five years. She has investigated many machine-related incidents and educated workers around the world in applying a ‘zero access’ standard to machinery safeguarding.

Every day in Australia about two workers suffer an amputation. Australia’s work health and safety laws are some of the toughest in the world yet serious machine-related injuries continue to occur.

Many investigations find the injured worker did not follow procedures but I have never known a worker to deliberately harm themselves. Often the worker will be injured when attempting to keep production going (and their supervisor happy) by clearing a blocked or jammed machine that may involve disabling a safeguard or interlock. Production machinery is often powerful and when human flesh and bones come into contact with machinery parts, serious hand injuries or amputations can occur.

Where an employer uses guarding to reduce the risk of machine-related injuries, all machinery – even brand new machinery – must be guarded to a standard that prevents, so far as is reasonably practicable, access to hazardous moving parts

Our experience shows that the integrity of electronic safeguards represents about 10 per cent of incidents and accidents whereas physical access represents 70-90 per cent.

All gaps should be guarded to prevent access to hazardous parts.
For example:

  • a finger can reach through a guard where all dangerous parts are further than a finger length (100mm) away
  • gaps under safety barriers or enclosures may be up to 180mm but the gap must be reduced if dangerous parts are within arm’s reach (within 850mm)
  • common access points to hazards are through product in-feed gaps.

A hazard warning sticker or sign will not prevent this risk and will not meet the employer’s legal obligations to provide safe plant and equipment.
Machine guards must be strong, tamper-proof and either interlocked or require a non standard tool to remove. Equipment should not be restarted without all safeguards in place (eg guards interlocked).

Once machinery has been assessed and upgraded to a ‘zero access’ standard, a robust machine isolation (or lock-out tag-out) program is required to protect machine maintenance workers.

Read the Guidance Note Guarding of machines

For more information on safety distances and gaps allowed in machine guards read Australian Standard 4024, Safety of Machinery Series.

What do you think of guarding and machinery safety? Let us know

About the Author

Joanne Wallace is our resident "Safety Guru". Joanne has provided advice on safety management for the past 10 years and written hundreds of articles on safety issues and tips. Joanne has experience in many industries ranging from manufacturing, food processing, timber milling, retail, office and wholesaling providing her with knowledge and experience managing risk and injuries in these industries.

Comments (2)

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  1. […] Safety Concepts – machine guarding | Safety Concepts A hazard warning sticker or sign will not prevent this risk and will not meet the employer's legal obligations to provide safe plant and equipment. Machine guards must be strong, tamper-proof and either interlocked or […]

  2. Kaylee says:

    At last! Someone who understands! Thanks for posting!

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