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Machine Guarding: OSHA Safety Guidelines

September 18, 2022

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Complex machinery that operates at rapid speeds provides numerous benefits, like shorter cycle times and decreased labor costs. However, this machinery does present some safety concerns. Depending on the item in production, debris, welding materials, or other dangerous chemicals may be sprayed during operation and cause harm if they strike employees. 

To prevent injury and support safe working conditions, the government agency called the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) provides standards and guidelines for machine guarding. Understanding applicable safety guidelines is crucial to ensuring that your business operates efficiently and safely.

If you operate a manufacturing business or another business that works with heavy machinery, your business must follow all of OSHA’s safety guidelines. Let’s zoom into all the applicable OSHA guidelines for machine guarding and how we can help your business address all of these standards.

General OSHA Guidelines

The most general OSHA safety guideline states that machine guards must be affixed to the machine, if possible, and to another secure location nearby, if not possible. The guard must not pose another safety risk itself, meaning that machine safety guards must be secure and reliable.

OSHA also states that at least one type of machine guarding should be installed around dangerous equipment. These methods provide both the operator and other employees with protection from hazards generated by the point of operation. OSHA provides examples of hazards like rotating parts, ingoing nip points, and flying chips and sparks, and states that machine guards decrease the risk of injury from these hazards. This guideline also provides examples of guarding methods, which include barrier guards, electronic safety devices, two-hand tripping devices, and more.

Machine Guarding for Advanced Machinery

These general guidelines do not provide specific insight into technology, automated manufacturing, or robotic machinery. Many of our machine guarding door customers operate automated manufacturing organizations that require more specifications for machine protection.

Fortunately, OSHA publishes standard interpretation letters to address how the guidelines should be applied to developing technology. This standard interpretation describes the best practices for machine guarding with robotic devices.

Machine Guards Must Protect Against All Scenarios

The standard interpretation states that the guard in place must protect employees from all reasonable scenarios where they might interact with the equipment. For instance, machine guards must not only protect employees directly operating the machinery but all employees that might inadvertently come into contact with the machinery by entering the production space. This means that all machine guarding should account for all situations where employees interact with the equipment and protect against all potential hazards.

Guidelines for Moving Machinery

This standard interpretation also provides guidelines for protections against more specific scenarios, like moving machinery. Moving machinery often takes the form of conveyor belts or other simultaneously moving parts with potential nip points.

According to the interpretation, these hazards should be addressed by fixed barriers that cannot be easily defeated, barrier guards and other motion detectors that stop machine motion in case of emergency. This interpretation clearly describes that organizations should anticipate the potential for injury with machinery with moving parts and provide durable machine guarding measures.

Guidelines for Robotic Systems

Guidelines for industrial robots and other robotic machinery in manufacturing situations are further outlined by the American National Standard for Industrial Robots Systems within OSHA. These guidelines emphasize that operators should prioritize the efficacy of the barriers that they put in place rather than simply installing guards because it is required.

While OSHA recommends barriers like barrier guards and presence-sensing devices to prevent injury, the mere existence of these barriers does not ensure OSHA compliance. In order to align with OSHA standards, sensing robotic devices should work in tandem with basic awareness guards. This means that operators should install redundant safety guards, like stop motion sensors and effective barrier guards, to maximize worker safety.

The standard interpretation also highlights that workplaces that employ robotic machinery or hazardous materials must comply with the same general OSHA requirements as well as additional standards for robotics and hazardous energy. When the machinery and the workplace are more technologically developed, the standards for safety must rise to this standard as well.

Ensure Your Workplace is OSHA-Compliant

Following all OSHA standards for your workplace is crucial for preventing fines, unplanned downtime, and employee injury. When considering the barriers and machine guards that your workplace needs in order to align with OSHA standards, you must find strong and reliable solutions.
Our machine protection doors offer dependable and durable solutions to support OSHA safety guidelines. We offer a range of machine protection doors with features customizable to suit your specific work environment. Safety options for our machine guarding doors include electronic safety contact edges and door line photocells.

Additional options include LED light strips to indicate door closure and protect against collision as well as multibeam light barriers that sense when an object inhibits the door and stops the door from closing. Another motion-sensing safety feature is the laser scanner, which prevents door closure if the space is not clear. The laser scanner can detect smaller objects that most other scanners will miss, making it an ideal backup safety option.

As the OSHA guidelines state, protection doors should only support workplace safety, not create other opportunities for injury. An ideal feature option for our machine protection doors is a bottom profile in a flat design, which creates a flush surface with no protruding edges. This ensures that the upward movement of the door will not injure workers in tight spaces.

Your Partner for Machine Protection Doors

Door Systems is proud to partner with quality manufacturers to provide machine guarding technology that ensures your business operates safely and efficiently. Our machine protection doors provide the necessary safety assurance that comply with OSHA safety guidelines. If you would like more information about the safety features that our machine guarding doors can provide, please contact our door experts. You can find a location near you or request a quote or service online!