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Safety Toolbox Talks

Machine Guards

We’ve all had the very frustrating experience of doing what we thought was a favor for someone only to have it rejected or go unappreciated. I suppose if machine guards were human, they would experience this sort of frustration frequently.

While the basic motive for guarding is to protect, not prohibit, guards are often looked upon by employees as obstacles. However, guards are for your protection-regardless of what kind they are or where they are placed.

Specifically, machine guards are used to protect against direct contact with moving parts. There are also guards designed to protect against flying chips, kickbacks, and splashing of metal or harmful liquids. Mechanical and electrical failures are also guarded against in many situations.

Guards are also provided against human failure, which calls for special protection since human failure has a much broader scope than guards can generally meet.

Nevertheless, guards are engineered to give as much protection as possible even to machine operators who deliberately take chances or who are distracted or involved in an emotional upset while on the job.

While guards may appear to be a hindrance in some cases, overall they have proven to be otherwise. They’ve made large contributions to both security and protection. Greater machine speed have been possible through proper guarding, and certainly the conscientious employee works with greater confidence, knowing that his machine offers maximum protection.

Using Machine Guards for Safety

Most of the machinery you work with is probably equipped with safety guards. Guards are designed to protect you from numerous dangers, including moving or sharp machine parts, flying sparks or particles and hot surfaces.

Guards help protect your arms, hands and fingers, which are especially vulnerable to injury from a variety of machinery parts: cutting edges, punching and shearing parts, rotating and in-running shafts and pointed objects.

The machines you use should have guards if there’s any way your hands could come into contact with the point of operation or any moving parts. There should be no way for your hands or fingers to get in from any angle, and the guard itself should not have any sharp surfaces or pinch points.

Common guarding methods include:

  • Enclosures
  • Interlocking devices
  • Remote control
  • Electronic safety devices
  • Removal devices
  • Moving barriers
  • Two-handed tripping devices

Machine Guard Safety Rules

  • Never remove or bypass a guard or other safety device
  • Never operate a machine if a guard is missing, modified, or not working properly
  • If a guard must be removed for maintenance, make sure it’s replaced and working properly before operations resume
  • Always use a PUSH STICK and never wear gloves

Working with Guards

There’s never any good reason to remove or modify a guard on a machine that you’re using. Even if you think you can work faster without the guard, it’s there to protect you and help you do the job more safely. Talk to your supervisor if you’re worried about meeting production goals or if you think the guard should be changed.

Types of Guards

Two types of guards are used to protect machine operators, and probably most of you have been involved with one or the other at some time. These are fixed guards and interlocking and gate guards.

Fixed guards are most commonly used and are preferred over others, the reason being that the fixed guards offer protection from dangerous parts of machines at all times. Fixed guards may be adjusted but only by authorized personnel.

Interlocking guards are used if a fixed guard is not practical for some reason. This type will not allow the machine to be put into operation until dangerous parts are guarded. The interlocking guard is designed to disconnect the source of power from the machine.

Safety devices such as pullbacks, sweeps, and electronic devices are used when neither a fixed nor interlocking guard can be used satisfactorily. Safety devices are operated by the machine itself. When this type of guard is used on a machine that is loaded and unloaded by hand, the operator must use hand tools.

No guard can do the job for which it is intended without the cooperation of the person operating the machine. When a new worker hires on, the job indoctrination includes pointing out guarding devices and explaining their importance.

It is equally important that everyone working with or around machinery understands the generally accepted safe procedures for his kind of work. No guard should be adjusted or removed unless permission is given by the supervisor, the employee concerned is specifically trained, and the adjustment is considered a normal part of the job

In addition, no machine should be started without guards in place. If you see that guards are missing or defective, report it to your supervisor immediately. When guards or safety devices are removed for repair or adjustment, the power for the machine should be turned off and the main switch locked and tagged.

Everyone wants to work in safety. To do this, you must have a mature respect for machinery and for safeguards. They both will do the job for you if you let them.