Machine guarding is the placement of protective safety equipment, fencing and fixings around the perimeter of hazardous areas of manufacturing and engineering machinery to protect machine operators and other personnel against accidental injury or fatality.
The primary goal of all employers should be to protect all employees from injury by creating a safe working environment. Machinery can cause injuries in many different ways when in operation, so to prevent accidents a thorough check should be undertaken before operating to ensure the machine is well maintained and all safeguarding requirements are fitted and working correctly.
Machine guards are required where any type of machine activity could result in an injury ranging from cuts, burns and minor abrasions to more severe incidents such as lacerations, crushing or amputation. A large range of machine activities may create hazards to personnel working with and around machinery, these can include, moving parts, points of operation and pinch or shear points. Machine operators and personnel can also be at risk of being injured while working in the vicinity of machinery when the machine is being operated, these can include injuries from splinters or debris, sparks or sprays.
It is the responsibility of the machinery manufacturer and the end user to conduct a risk assessment to determine the guarding that is required to operate the machine safely and to ensure that the machine will comply with legislation. The manufacturer should consider any foreseeable use and misuse of the machinery, as well as point of operation and pinch or shear points for anyone who operates the equipment. However, it is impossible for the manufacturer to foresee any potential hazard with the equipment setup, operation and maintenance once the machine is set up within a production line or manufacturing environment. The responsibility should lie with the end user to conduct a separate risk assessment on initial installation, to recognise potential hazards, and on a regular basis to ensure all machine guards and machine safety equipment are installed and are well maintained and working as required.