Guarding – last line of defence

Guards around power tools or over moving parts of equipment (e.g. covers over compressor pulleys) are there for seriously good reasons. Injuries and deaths from people getting cut or caught in machinery keep happening all the time.

It’s a common misunderstanding that bits of clothes caught in moving machinery can’t be that dangerous, after all cloth rips doesn’t it? Wrong.

A loose bit of overall sleeve caught in between a pulley and pulley belt is unlikely to rip. It will have an arm or hand mangled in a micro second. Nip points on equipment can catch skin.  A de-gloved hand, where a pinch of skin is caught in machinery and the skin is ripped off the hand is as ugly as it sounds.

Do regular checks of things like angle grinders and moving parts of equipment to make sure the guards originally fitted are still in place and doing the job they have to.  People will remove guards.

Have a policy that when guards are removed to do repair or maintenance work on equipment the guards are refitted as soon as those sort of jobs are done.

Monitor use of power tools in the workshop.  Stop any work being done with power tools when the guard has been removed.

Don’t consider that a guard isn’t necessary if an operator is using some other sort of personal protective gear (e.g. using protective eye gear with a bench grinder that has no fitted shield in front of the grinder wheel).  Treat safety as a thing that works best in layers. Murphy’s Law never rests.  One level of safety protection will always fail at the wrong time.

Do regular checks on all guards on tools and equipment.  Make it a specific check. Include an evaluation of whether equipment that can catch clothes or part of a body is properly guarded.  Modern equipment designers are generally pretty good at making sure guards are fitted where they need to be, older gear is not so well designed.  If it seems entirely possible for a person to get caught by a moving bit of equipment look at having a guard made and fitted: use a specialist to do that.

Readers are at liberty to use this stuff as they see fit, but acknowledgement of the author and the source (i.e. SafetyatWorkBlog) is expected. Contact Kevin Jones first if ya wanna use it. Cheers.

Col Finnie

Categories business, clothing, consultation, machine guarding, OHS, PPE, risk, safety, Uncategorized, workplaceTags , ,

2 thoughts on “Guarding – last line of defence”

  1. Col

    In support of your article, on 15 May 2009, there was an incident in Western Australia that illustrates some of your concerns and the issue of training and casual staff. Below is the text of the WorkSafe WA media release:

    Drum cleaning company fined $30,000 over serious injury to worker

    A North Coogee drum packaging and cleaning company has been fined $30,000 for failing to provide a safe workplace after a labour hire worker was seriously injured.
    Schutz DSL (Australia) Pty Ltd (formerly known as DSL Drum Services Pty Ltd) (Schutz) pleaded guilty to failing to provide a safe workplace and, by that failure, causing serious injury to a worker and was fined in the Fremantle Magistrates Court on Monday.
    The worker had been provided under a labour hire arrangement in December 2006 to work as a labourer, loading and unloading plastic drums to and from trucks.
    On his second day at the workplace, the worker was instructed to work with steel drums in an area close to a 13 metre long conveyor used to transfer drums from one side of the shed to the other.
    A walkway was located alongside the entire length of the conveyor, and this walkway was known to become very slippery.
    The labour hire worker had been provided with a general induction by the labour hire company, but no specific induction for the job was provided by either the labour hire company or Schutz.
    On December 28, when he had been working in the steel drum area for approximately a week, the worker slipped on the walkway on which he was standing and fell onto the conveyor.
    He fell onto an area where two different sections of the operational conveyor met, and both his feet and legs became entangled.
    The emergency stop button was too far away for the worker to reach, and the conveyor was stopped by a fellow worker. Colleagues had to remove a roller from the conveyor to free him.
    He suffered severe foot and leg injuries requiring multiple surgeries and skin grafts.
    WorkSafe WA Commissioner Nina Lyhne said today the case highlighted two extremely important safety issues – guarding of machinery and training of workers.
    “In this case, the combination of a lack of proper induction, training or instruction, a lack of guarding on the moving conveyor and a slippery walkway created an extremely hazardous situation,” Ms Lyhne said. “The case is a stark reminder that it is crucial to provide workers with appropriate training for each and every task, especially in a labour hire situation where there is dual responsibility for providing and maintaining a safe workplace.
    “I believe there was some confusion as to who was providing training, so this is a lesson in never assuming that training and instruction are being provided when there is a labour hire arrangement.
    “Soon after this incident, the company installed multiple emergency stop buttons and erected a physical barrier and guarding and fixed warning signs along the conveyor.
    “It was practicable for the company to have made these changes before this incident could happen, which would have spared this worker a great deal of pain and suffering.
    “Guarding of the moving parts of machinery is still one of the easiest and most obvious means of minimising the risk of injury to machinery operators, and I strongly urge employers in workplaces with machinery to ensure that it is safe to operate.”


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