Something our marketing guy learned: “machine guarding” has nothing to do with RoboCop or T-9000. It’s robot guards, but the installations we use to put a dummy-proof barrier between people and the machinery that would grind us to dust without missing a beat.
While it feels like machines are getting smarter, letting us do more things faster, our approach to how we engage with machines is getting kind of loose. If certain things weren’t covered or hidden, we would hear a lot more news stories about car owners getting their fingers caught in serpentine belts or kids getting popped by electrical outlets because they plug in their iPad charger incorrectly. In the industrial fields, we’re lucky that we can leave most of our machinery to do what it is designed to do without a lot of involvement. We either control them from a booth or a panel, or they’re shut down for when the plant needs more invasive surgery.
For everything else, you’ll want the guards in place.
Machine guarding is the physical barriers and devices that exist between you and the hazardous components. This is the proactive means to prevent accidents and is the tentpole to any comprehensive safety program by serving three functions:
- Injury Prevention: Sharp edges, hot panels, swiftly moving belts or gearsets – a simple barrier is all it takes to prevent accidental amputations, cuts, burns, or crushes.
- Compliance with Regulations: The government would very much like for you to keep a safe working environment for your crew. So, as it turns out, does your workman’s comp insurance provider.
- Enhancing Productivity: Employees tend to work better and focus on their jobs when they feel safe with their surroundings. Also, people can usually do more when they have all of their fingers, arms, toes, and eyes.
Establishing Effective Machine Guarding
Most manufacturers have guards already installed on their machines, or they will send along addons or recommended safety barriers. Other times, you may need to create and install something custom to your new or existing machinery.
Safety is at the top of our priorities, and everything Motus Group ships and installs has safety elements and machine guards built in. But if you think you are lacking, there’s a few things to consider for designing and installing new machine guarding:
- Risk Assessment: What’s the hazard? Where is it, and how far back do you have to go before it is less of a hazard? If you think your littlest finger might get caught in it, then it might be worth covering.
- Choosing the Right Guarding Methods: While there are all manner of laser-detection auto-shutoffs that will shut down your system on a dime if it detects so much a breeze from the wrong direction, we like it when things are absolutely foolproof. In most cases, this means covering the risky components so they are out of sight and there is no way anyone could accidentally get caught up in it. When in doubt, slap a “DANGER: Do Not Touch” sticker on it.
- If you are using a larger physical barrier, make it more of a pain in the butt than it needs to be. Some of us grew up in places where shortcuts were just fine, but in your factory or plant hopping over the wrong fence could make for a more interesting afternoon than you intended.
- Maintenance: Add this to your regular walkthroughs and inspections. Make sure things that are shut, locked, blocked, whatever. Sometimes guards succumb to wear and tear and mechanical failures – which is as good as not having a mechanical guard at all.
- Employee Training: Some folks need to be told the stove is hot. Make sure your team knows what to watch out for, why guards are where they are, and the risk they take if they ignore or circumvent them.
Yes, machine guarding is required by law, by insurance companies, by safety organizations, and often by unions. We know a lot of it is very “duh” – but if it wasn’t a problem, we would have to write a post like this one.
If you’re not sure what your plant might need to ensure the safety of your employees, give us a call. Motus Group installs, retrofits, and designs systems for all manners of storage and conveyance, as well as ventilation and emissions management.
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