SAFETY SOLUTIONS: Machine Guarding
Recently, two companies that work with plastic
asked us to come to their facility to conduct a safety
audit. We also conducted a machine guarding
course to educate their management team, maintenance
personnel and safety committees. The training emphasized
the OSHA standards for machine safeguarding and
lockout and tagout. Both employers recently had amputations
on their machines and OSHA subsequently paid
them a visit. After OSHA arrived on the scene they ended
up issuing citations and penalties to these two employers.
In both cases the penalties were in excess of
$500,000.00 and to make matters worse, the employers
were required to fix the machines in record-breaking time.
And you can bet the required downtime to correct all of
these machine hazards hurt the manufacturing schedule.
Plastics fabricating machines are complex pieces of
equipment that require certain specialty guards to protect
employees from nip points, numerous moving parts and
exposure to high voltage and high temperatures. Serious
injuries including fatalities, amputations, avulsions, burns,
cuts bruises can occur during operation. Such injuries may
result from guards that are missing, improperly installed,
removed or bypassed.
Normally an accident occurs when an employee reaches
into an unguarded portion of the machine. Remember to
have a machine that is properly guarded, the employee
must not be able to reach over, under, around or through
the machine guard and be able to reach the danger zone
or point of operation on the machine. Injuries that can
occur include; amputations, avulsions (de-gloving, considered
a near-miss to amputations), fractures, burns and in
extreme cases death.
Corrective measures include instructing their employees
to read the owners/operators manuals and to bring unsafe
conditions to the attention of their supervisors. It should
also be company policy that employees:
Recently, in an effort to reduce accidents to employees
working in the plastic industry, the Society of the Plastics
Industry. Inc. (SPI) and OSHA formed an alliance. The
OSHA and SPI alliance focuses on providing employers
with information and guidance that will help them protect
employees’ health and safety, particularly in identifying
and eliminating hazards likely to result in amputations
and reducing and preventing exposure to ergonomic hazards.
The goals of the alliance include:
Never attempt to reach around, under, over or through
a guard. If a person standing on the floor can reach
over the machine or machine guard into the point of
operation, the employer should install new guarding or
modify the existing guarding to prevent that from
occurring. One common approach is to install a top
guard that is either fixed or interlocked, depending on
the need for access to the work area.
- Never remove, alter or attempt to otherwise bypass a
- Do not remove or open a fixed guard for normal operating
Provide training on the safety hazards and features of
the machinery for all employees who will potentially
Training And Education
Developing training addressing machine safety and safe
ergonomic practices, to be delivered in conferences,
meetings and through SPI’s Plastics Learning Network.
- Outreach and communication.
- Encouraging the continuing development of ergonomic
guidelines by the plastics industry.
- Jointly developing and disseminating information and
guidance on workplace safety and health issues, including
but not limited to amputation and ergonomic hazards
and control mechanisms such as lock-out/tag-out and machine guarding through SPI workshops, meetings
and print and electronic media.
- Promoting OSHA’s cooperative programs within the
The first year of the SPI/OSHA alliance brought national
recognition of the plastics industry’s focus on improving
workplace safety. OSHA has a web page developed as a
product of the alliance, noting that more than 1.5 million
workers in the U.S. plastics industry stand to benefit from
this alliance. Click on www.osha.gov/SLTC/plastics/index.
html to access the OSHA Assitance for the Plastics Industry
website. It provides links to:
If you are interested in receiving a free generic safety
inspection check sheet for the machines referenced, Basic
Job Safety & Health Analysis (JSHA), generic safety placards,
generic daily maintenance or operator inspection
check list or free train-the-trainer PowerPoint presentations
on your type of machinery, please contact us and we
will send it to you.
Safety and health information about the plastics industry.
- Standards that apply to plastics processing.
- Information about hazards and solutions.
- Focused links to all tools developed under the alliance.
OSHA through the alliance with the SPI developed several
programs available and offers them as PowerPoint
presentations. See www.plasticsindustrytraining.org to
download the presentations.
If you have questions regarding workplace safety, please
visit our website at www.podojilconsulting.com where you
will find helpful information on a variety of topics. Until
next time, take care and please remember; “It is either
safe or it is unsafe” and in my opinion it is better to be
safe than sorry.
For more information, click on the author biography at the top of this page.