Machine Guarding: expectations vs reality

Expectations: ANSI / OSHA, to protect people, priority 1 by the company and the people. 

The top expectation in machine guarding is that companies are to protect their employees from hazards.  This is accomplished through guarding machines per ANSI / ISO specs.  Every facility’s machine expectations are different.  This can create challenges to follow all specs that are written as a general spec.  This grey area is open to interpretation to use common sense to fill in the blanks when providing the proper machine guarding.  To help with these challenges, companies should work with qualified suppliers offering turnkey safety solutions.  The company, however, is not the only responsible party for safety being priority #1.  Any employee either running the equipment or see someone running a machine is responsible as well.

Reality: too busy, no money budgeted, not #1 priority, people are afraid to speak up about poor machine safety.

The reality of it all is …

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Where will machine guarding be in a year from now

I believe the shift in priority to safety being #1 will continue to grow.  This will happen either proactively by willingness to change or awareness of the extreme needs, or reactively by force due to unfortunate incidents.  There are a lot of companies that take safety serious by hiring safety personnel, creating safety committees, and development systems, procedures, and controlled processes.  Regardless of the road blocks to create a safer work environment, these companies will do whatever it take to comply and protect their people.  Those companies that hide behind excuses for not improving machine safety or with illusions that their safe because they haven’t had an accident are the ones being reactive and will be forced to comply by OSHA and/or the courts.  ANSI / ISO specs continue to be enhanced and added, while OSHA is simultaneously increasing efforts to inspect facilities for unsafe conditions.  This will result in more proactive approaches in machine guarding efforts.

The biggest problem with electronic safety integration and how you can fix it

The unknowns…a lot of unknowns exist when evaluating electronic safety devices.

  • Machine voltage
  • Stop distance
  • Qualified installers
  • What to tie into
  • Where to tie into
  • What devices should be used to integrate electronic safety devices with machines
  • What are the environment conditions the devices will need to be susceptible?
  • What is the category level required for your application?
  • What type of devices are needed / required?
  • Is there room in the machine control panel to expand the machine safety features?

Ask me anything: 10 answers to your questions about proper machine guarding

  1. Where do I begin?
  2. How can I provide consistency?
  3. How do I know which products to use?
  4. Does liability coverage matter when hiring an installer?
  5. How do I pick the right machine guarding company?
  6. How do I avoid negative workplace safety attitudes?
  7. What are the factors in justifying machine guarding?
  8. Should I perform routine maintenance to machine guarding?
  9. Am I susceptible to bigger fines if I have a plan and do nothing?
  10. What is the general lead-time for a turnkey machine guarding solution?

5 horrible mistakes your making with electronic safety devices

  • Using non-safety rated switches as a machine interrupt
  • Using safety light curtains and safety laser scanners too close to a hazard
  • Only using (1) electronic safety device when rated less than a category 3
  • Allowing employees to bypass safety devices without consequence
  • Hooking up devices without the proper safety relay, safety controller, or safety PLC

Why people don’t care about machine guarding

One of the main reasons people don’t care about safety is they feel it slows them down. Bulky, labor intensive changeovers, slows down access for part production, can’t see parts during processing, hard to clean around are just some of the words used to describe “unnecessary” machine guarding.  That “inefficiency” to them equates to loss revenue instead of saving people from injury or death.  When designed, built, and installed properly it does not have to hinder production.  The general attitude is “I’ve used this machine for 20 years and never got hurt, so why put machine guarding on it?”.