When it comes to machine guarding in the workplace, there are some pervasive myths that might be undermining your safety efforts. You may have heard these four commonly-believed myths, but in fact, they just won’t hold up when tested against current knowledge about safeguarding.
Here are the four most common machine guarding myths along with the truths you need to know to protect yourself, your employees, and your coworkers from injury at work.
Machines are Safeguarded Before They’re Shipped
Just because it’s shiny, doesn’t mean it’s safe.
Once you’ve just spent a whack of money on a new machine, it’s easy to think that it will come fully safeguarded out of the box. And it might be! By some safety standards. The problem is that safety standards vary wildly by country of origin. One American-made piece of equipment could have many more safeguards than another from an identical manufacturer elsewhere in the world. And vice-versa.
To further complicate things, manufacturers have no obligation to outfit a machine with all of the safety features required by local regulations. Adding this standard would raise the cost of the machine and blunt their competitive edge.
The application affects the type of guarding a machine requires as well. You need to thoroughly inspect a machine’s moving parts and what you will be using it for in order to ensure proper machine guarding before you put it into use. A drill press shield is standard outfitting for a drill press. But is that enough?
OEM manufacturers can’t just hazard a guess at a machine’s purpose, the safety requirements of the country that it is being shipped to, and furthermore, any specific clauses within that country’s safety standards. It is up to you to do your homework and either specify your machine guarding requirements to your manufacturer, or purchase and install them once you have the machine in your shop.
Old Machines are Exempt from New Safety Protocols
Safety standards are constantly evolving as we learn new techniques for guarding machines.
We’ve all heard at least one crazy story about some freak accident that took place years ago when safety standards weren’t as strict as they are now. So, does it really make sense that machines equipped with antiquated safety protocols, or no safety protocols at all, would be compliant with today’s regulations?
As OSHA’s regulations evolve and advance, our machine guarding protocols must also advance. And which piece of machinery catches the most heat from both OSHA and ANSI? Nearly every shop out there is equipped with a bench grinder – but are they all safety compliant? You may want to check yours and see if it could use an upgraded guard or shield.
It might seem like common sense that outdated machines are exempt from safety standards- what was once safe is always safe, right? Not exactly. Even when safety measures are built into old machinery, it can be difficult to ensure they’re working properly—and even when they are in working order, the equipment can degrade over time.
Be vigilant about constantly inspecting equipment for compliance with current safety measures. You could save a life.
Safety training might seem like a complex undertaking for workers, but consider this: having safety guards in place is no good if operators don’t know how to operate safely alongside them. Food for thought.
Machine Guarding is Expensive and Reduces Efficiency
The overhead cost of properly equipping your machinery to meet safety standards may seem daunting. And it may seem like establishing safety protocols will reduce productivity.
But does it cost less to shut down a machine, or even an entire plant, because of a safety protocol breach that resulted in an injured employee?
It will probably surprise you to learn that when your employees can focus on their job because they trust their equipment, your productivity and efficiency actually increase. In fact, it has been proven. Lockheed Martin put the theory to the test, with interesting results. When their Paducah, Kentucky plant made safety a priority, they found that their overhead decreased by 20%. That’s not all. They also saw a 24% jump in productivity.
Machine Guarding Regulations are Only Guidelines, not Laws
Machine safety guidelines are not merely suggestions. Failing to properly safeguard your machines can result in repercussions so much heavier than a simple fine. Though, fines are also standard for safety code violations.
Sure, you could get into some hot water with OSHA if you fail a safety inspection. But someone could also lose their life. It is so pertinent that employers spend the time and money to properly safeguard their machinery against injury and death, that this is specifically stated in the Occupational Health and Safety Act of 1970, and it hasn’t changed in the years since its publication.
If the idea of having an employee seriously injure themself on your watch isn’t scary enough, how does the idea of going to jail sound?
On the north side of the border, Bill C-45 amended the Canadian Criminal Code to impose criminal liability upon corporate executives who fail to properly safeguard the machinery that their employees use. Long story short, you can go to jail for violating safety codes.
We could spend hours debunking a dozen more myths when it comes to machine guarding and safety, but the fundamental idea is that it is your moral and legal responsibility to outfit your operation with up-to-date safeguarding equipment. We’re here to help you out with that, feel free to reach out with any machine guarding questions that you might have!