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Machine Hazards

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Free OSHA Safety Best Practices Guide

Written by Steve Hudgik

Machines can present a variety of hazards, depending on the type of machine and what it does. Machine hazards include mechanical hazards, chemical hazards, electrical hazards and other types of hazards. We'll take a look at hazards that result from machines with mechanical hazards such as rotational or reciprocating motion.

Machine Hazards - Rotating and Reciprocating Motion

The first step in safety is to be aware of the hazards of the machine you are working with. All machines have components that rotate, or have a reciprocating motion, or they may use a combination of these motions.

Rotary motion can involve rollers used to move materials, cutting wheels, flywheels, shaft ends, and spindles. The speed of rotation is not critical. Rotational motion is hazardous even when the rotational speed is low and without regard to the size of the machine.

Reciprocating motion is back-and-forth or up-and-down movement.

Common Machine Hazards

  • Rotating parts and shafts can catch hair or clothing and can pull the machine operator into the machine. This can seriously mangle or crush the operator. Common dangers include stock projecting from the chuck of a lathe, rollers on conveyors, and machines that do chipping or grinding.
  • Rotating parts may be locked into place using a bolt or key. Machine operators can be struck by a these or other projecting components.
  • Rotating parts can force an arm or hand into a dangerous position, breaking bones, causing lacerations, or severing a hand or other parts of a limb.
  • Workers can be caught and crushed by reciprocating movement when a moving part in a machine approaches or crosses a fixed part of the machine.

Machine Hazards - Safety When Using Machines

The first step in safety is to identify hazards. A hazard analysis should be conducted on every new machine, and after machine maintenance or modifications.

Protecting workers from hazards starts with engineering controls. These are used to either eliminate the hazard or prevent access to the hazard. If engineering controls do not eliminate the hazard, then administrative controls are used. If administrative controls do not provide full protection, then personal protective equipment is used.

Machine Hazards - Engineering Controls

  • Machine design - when specifying or evaluating a new machine make safety a major consideration. Look for machines that do not have inherent safety hazards
  • Machine guarding - guards are standard on most machines. Should you purchase a machine that does not come equipped with a needed guard, install one. Contact the manufacturer of the machine to see if appropriate guard(s) are available for the equipment. If not, have a guard designed and installed by technically competent and qualified persons. In addition, it is always a good idea to have the equipment manufacturer review a proposed guard design to ensure the guard will adequately protect employees and allow safe operation of the equipment.

    To be effective, a guard should prevent employees from contacting the dangerous parts of the machine, and it should be secure. However, this may not always be possible. For example, in some cases the guard may need to move to allow product to move through the machine. Regardless, the machine operator should not be able to easily bypass, remove, disable or otherwise tamper with the guard.

    In addition, the guard must not create additional hazards, nor prevent the worker from performing necessary job tasks. The need to do a job does not mean safety can be ignored. The machine and the job tasks must be designed to allow the work to be done safely.

    When inspecting a machine for hazards make sure that machine guards are in working order, and that they are appropriate and practical for the machinery. Guards must have adequate strength to resist blows and strains, and should be constructed to protect operators from any possible flying materials or broken machine parts.

  • Other ways to protect workers - other methods for safeguarding machines include guarding by location or distance, using safe feeding methods, and the placement of controls in safe locations. However, none of these methods should replace machine guards. It is always important to provide a guard or barrier that prevents access to the dangerous area of the machine.

Machine Hazards - Administrative Controls

  • Train workers on how to operate the machine safely, and allow only those who are trained and authorized to operate and maintain the machine. Operators should understand the purpose and function of all controls on the machine, should know how to stop the equipment in an emergency. They should also be trained on safe procedures for variations, such as special set-ups.

    Machine operator training should cover the hazards associated with the machine, how the safeguards protect the worker from these hazards, under what circumstances guards may be removed (usually just for maintenance), and what to do if a guard is damaged or not functioning properly.

    Operators must be able to demonstrate their ability to run the machine with all safety precautions and mechanisms in place.

  • Frequently inspect equipment and guards. Ensure that:
    1. the operator, machine and the area in which the machine is located are equipped with all safety accessories supplied by the manufacturer, as well as any other safety equipment or guarding that is required to protect against the hazards of the job.
    2. the machine and all safety equipment are in proper working condition. Document machine inspections and keep a written record of the inspection. Documentation should identify the machine, inspection date, problems noted, and corrective action taken. Documenting problems helps ensure that corrective action will be taken. It also ensures that the machine operators on all shifts will be aware of any potential danger. Documentation also helps reveal repeat problems on a particular machine so that the underlying cause can be identified and fixed as soon as possible.
    3. the machine operator is properly trained.
  • Use a machine only when its guards are in place and in working order. No one should be allowed to operate a machine if the guard, or any other safety device, is not in place and functioning properly. When guards cannot be used, other methods must be provided to protect machine operators and others.
  • Never leave a machine unattended in the “on” position. Even if a machine runs well without attention, follow the manufacturer's recommendations for monitoring the machine. In addition, make sure machine operators know they should not leave a machine that has been turned off but which still has parts that are moving (is still coasting).
  • Maintain proper housekeeping. Workers have been injured by tripping and then falling into or onto a machine. Keep floors and aisles clean, and free from debris, dust, protruding nails, unevenness, or other tripping hazards. Do not use compressed air to blow away dust and debris . Using compressed air may cause material to fly through the air and injure someone.
  • Do not allow workers to wear loose clothing or have loose long hair. Loose clothing or long hair can easily become caught in rotating parts.

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Machine Hazards - Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)

When all other options to eliminate and protect against a hazard have been used, and a hazard still exists, use appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE). This may be something simple such as requiring eye protection be worn. Or it it may require more extensive use of PPE.

Machine Hazards - Labels and Signs

Labels and signs are an important component of safety, but they are often not fully utilized. OSHA has established standards that require the use of safety signs and labels, and being in compliance with those standards is critical. But, signs and labels can be used to further enhance safety. For example, by providing operating procedures and daily preventative maintenance requirements on labels affixed to a machine, every operator has the information that assures safety right at their fingertips.

The label printers that have the power and versatility to produce OSHA safety signs, as well as every other label and sign you'll need, are DuraLabel custom label printers. From the two inch hand-held DuraLabel 2000, to the large DuraLabel 9000 Sign Printer, DuraLabel printers and tough-tested supplies get the job done right. Call 1-888-326-9244 today for more information.

The information presented in this document was obtained from sources that we deem reliable; Graphic Products does not guarantee accuracy or completeness. Graphic Products, Inc. makes no representations or warranties of any kind, express or implied. Users of this document should consult municipal, state, and federal code and/or verify all information with the appropriate regulatory agency.

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