A Safety Shield and a Guard – What’s the Difference?

in Machine Safety Blog by

When it comes to safeguarding your machinery, you have two basic options: guards and safety shields.

Great! So, what are they? How are they different? And how do you know that you’re using the right type of safety equipment in your shop?

Let’s dive into what it takes to protect your most valuable assets – you and your employees – with proper safety shields and guards.

Safety Shields

Machine safety shields are pivotal in protecting machine operators from injury in their day-to-day operations. They are essential safety components that attach to an assembly or machine and are used to protect workers from moving machine parts in a couple of ways.

One risk facing machinists is that of getting parts of themselves or their clothing entangled within the components of their machine. This can have obvious consequences, ranging in severity from minor injuries to death.

Flying debris, coolant, and chips also pose a serious risk. Not only can the operator be harmed by this, but adjacent equipment can also be damaged by a rogue piece of metal being flung from a lathe at a high enough velocity.

This is where safety shields come in. They provide a physical barrier between the machine’s point of operation and its operator. Although shields offer some degree of safeguarding, they cannot be considered guards because they do not prevent access to dangerous areas of the machinery.

Fixed Vs. Portable Safety Shields

Safety shields are usually part of a complete machine guarding system, providing several layers of protection for both machine operators and bystanders. While many designs exist depending upon their application, there are two basic types: fixed and portable; each serving its own unique purposes.

Fixed shields are affixed to machines, acting as a barrier between a worker and the point of operation of their machine. They’re designed to protect machine operators from flying debris while also providing them with optimal visibility for the operation of their machines.

Safety shield installed on a big lathe

A common example of this type of machine safety equipment is a chuck shield, which protects users from accidental contact with rotating machine parts.

An engine lathe is a piece of machinery that can efficiently reshape metal into a plethora of shapes. But for it to do its job, it must make use of a variety of cutting tools. Each of these poses a dangerous risk to its operator if not properly guarded. This is where your chuck shield will come into play, doing its best to mitigate any risk of injury to the machine’s operator.

Portable shields are, you guessed it, mobile. By virtue of not being affixed to any specific machine, these are a lot more versatile. Portable shields are used for a variety of safeguarding applications, including being plucked between machines and stood along with isles in your shop.

Example images of portable safety shields.

Examples of portable safety shields (Photo by Ferndale/J.Spik)

Safety Guards

Safety guards can include a variety of safeguarding equipment that isn’t specifically shields. Guards are physical barriers that prevent someone from accessing moving parts.

Light curtains are a great example of a safety guard. These don’t encompass a physical barrier between the machine and its operator. They are instead made up of a series of LEDs emitting infrared lights around a machine. When an opaque object interrupts a beam of light, the machine shuts off. Cool, right?

Light curtains represent a fascinating advancement in machine guarding. Check out this article for a more in-depth explanation of how they work.

Invest in Guards and Safety Shields for Your Shop

The mechanical and electrical components of your cutting and turning machines pose a constant and considerable risk to your employees. That’s what makes safety guarding an essential practice in any shop.

But we know that implementing proper safety protocols is often easier said than done. Sometimes it’s best to leave it to the pros. For the peace of mind of knowing that your operation is safety compliant and your employees are protected, give Ferndale Safety a call today.