Machine Safeguarding

Machinery safeguarding is a critical component of workplace safety.

Machinery Safeguarding Requirements

So, what are the legal requirements when it comes to machine guarding?

Simply put, all machines must be safeguarded to prevent access by operators or passersby, to dangerous areas of the machine. For example, moving parts of the machine, or parts that are hot or cold.

Typical dangers associated with machinery include:

  • Shear points that can cut
  • Flying ejected parts that can impact people
  • Moving parts that can cut, bump, entangle, and draw people in
  • Hot and cold surfaces that can burn.

Typical injuries from unguarded machines may include:

  • Impact and crushing
  • Cutting
  • Entanglement
  • Stabbing; and
  • Abrasion

Machine parts that typically require guarding include:

  • Belts and pulleys
  • Gear wheels
  • Shafts and spindles
  • Flywheels
  • Blades and guillotines
  • Milling and cutters
  • Saws
  • Drills and chucks.

safety guard

Machinery Safety Penalties

Failure to comply with these requirements (like any other workplace hazards that lead to injury or death) can result in criminal prosecution against Directors or other Senior Officers of the organisation.

This includes those who had the power/authority to identify and control the hazard in the first place. Most states have now introduced Industrial Manslaughter legislation that carries a penalty of up to 27 years in jail in some States for an individual or a $19.23 million fine for a body corporate.

Machine Guarding Solutions

The following tips will help ensure your machine guarding is safe.

  1. If access to the area of the machine that requires guarding is not necessary during operation, maintenance, or cleaning, ensure guards are a permanently fixed barrier and cannot be removed (i.e. welded in place).
  2. If access to the area requiring guarding is necessary during operation, maintenance, or cleaning, ensure the area requiring guarding is an interlocked physical barrier, for example, a mechanism such as a gate that has a switch that turns the machine off when activated i.e. the gate is opened.
  3. If it is not reasonably practicable to use either of the two safeguarding methods above, then use a guard that can only be removed or altered using a tool, for example, a guard that is bolted on.
  4. If it is not reasonably practicable to use any of the three guarding methods above then use a “presence-sensing safeguarding mechanism such as an invisible beam (safety curtain) that when broken by someone’s presence, turns off the machine.

Guards must be:

  • of solid construction,
  • securely mounted and resistant to impact or shock,
  • prevent by-passing or disabling of the guard, and disable plant operation if it is removed,
  • not create a risk (eg it must not obstruct operator visibility, weaken the plant, cause operator discomfort, or create new hazards such as pinch points or sharp edges),
  • be properly maintained, and enable ease of servicing, maintenance, and repair, and
  • control any risk from broken/ejected parts and workpieces.

guard audits

A Tragic Incident

In November 2020, an 18-year-old girl working on a fruit sorting line had her entire scalp ripped from her head by the plant. Her hair became caught in an unguarded sprocket drive chain on the underside of the elevator conveyor, as she went to clean dropped fruit.

Surgical attempts to reattach her scalp were only partially successful; she continues to suffer from the psychological effects of the incident and her ongoing disability and disfigurement. The company was convicted of two failings, one being “Lack of guarded machinery”.

Inadequate guarding of machinery is responsible for many injuries, permanent disfigurement, and deaths in the workplace each year. That’s why the government has imposes strict regulations with severe penalties and even jail time for breaches.

The above case is a tragic example of the shock, trauma, ongoing pain, and disfigurement that can be caused in an instant, by inadequate and non-compliant machine guarding. Machine guarding and safety is of the utmost importance.

Machine Guarding Audits

Often the best way to ensure your machinery is safely guarded is to conduct an audit against machine guarding Standard AS 4024 Safeguarding of Machinery. This requires extensive engineering and safety expertise. Your Safety Partners have expert consultants that specialise in this area and are considered the best in the country.

We have conducted thousands of machine guarding audits and pride ourselves on not only identifying the hazards but also providing practical solutions that we can help you implement.

Contact us today for an assessment followed by a fee proposal.

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    A workplace safety consultant can also ensure the owners and managers of businesses meet their safety compliance requirements. This helps protect them from compensation or legal costs.