Choosing Safety: What to Look for in Machine-Guarding Companies

in Machine Safety Blog by

Estimated reading time: 12 minutes


Numerous machine-guarding companies are available, each claiming to enhance safety through effective machine-guarding solutions. While some companies specialize in specific services like conducting risk assessments, others provide more comprehensive solutions encompassing a wider range of machine safety services. 

Machine guarding involves installing safety devices on or near industrial machinery to shield workers from hazards like moving parts and flying sparks. Its main goal is to prevent accidents and injuries in places where machinery is used. While this concept seems straightforward, effectively guarding a machine can be challenging. As a result, you might require the expertise of a specialized machine-guarding company.

But what do machine guarding companies do?

How can they help me?

And, how can we choose a machine guarding company?

Let’s dive in and answer these questions!

Unlocking the Role of Machine-Guarding Companies

The common misconception is that safety guarding involves simply attaching a shield to a machine. However, this is far from accurate. In reality, complex machine guarding standards are in place, detailing specific requirements and intricate details for effective guarding.

Machine guarding standards aim to establish uniform guidelines and requirements to ensure workers’ safety near industrial machinery. Machine guarding standards were initially developed due to the significant number of injuries and fatalities resulting from industrial machinery use. Over time, various regional and international organizations have emerged to create and implement these standards.

Logos of some of the standards organizations around the world.

A machine guarding company is well-versed in various safety standards and can effectively apply them in practical settings. This expertise is crucial for ensuring actual worker safety. Insurance companies and government officials also utilize these standards to verify that safety guarding is installed correctly.

A machine safety company can provide several services and products from this basic requirement.

Here is a non-exhaustive list of products and services machine guarding companies provide:

  1. Machine safety risk assessments
  2. Safety guarding audits
  3. Machine safety engineering services
  4. Compliance consultation
  5. Operator safety training and education
  6. Guarding design & fabrication
  7. Safety guarding product sales
  8. Technical support
  9. Regular maintenance and inspections
  10. Installation of various types of machine guards and electronic safety devices.

While some machine guarding companies offer a wide range of services, claiming to cover every aspect of machine safety, others specialize in particular areas for a more focused expertise.

For instance, Ferndale Safety, a recognized leader in the field of machine safety, strategically focuses on specific aspects of machine guarding, such as engineering, fabrication, and installation services. This specialization allows them to excel in their chosen domains.

However, they defer to professional engineering companies regarding machine risk assessments (more about risk assessments later). These specialized firms are experts in conducting detailed consultations and risk assessments, leveraging their extensive knowledge of regional regulations and specific industry needs.

By collaborating with such experts, Ferndale Safety ensures its clients receive comprehensive and highly specialized services in every aspect of machine safety. This collaborative approach enables a more thorough and effective safety protocol for businesses, ensuring that respective experts in the field handle all aspects of machine guarding and risk assessments.

Seeking a Machine-Guarding Company: A Guide to Identifying Your Goals

Let’s first ask ourselves our requirements to know where to start looking. Are you a new machine shop safety manager and don’t know where to start? Or did you have an OSHA inspection, and they asked for specific upgrades? Let’s explore the objectives of your safeguarding project and see where we can start.

Did you know

Safety standards include knowing the human body and how fast it can move.  OSHA recommends a minimum value of 63 inches per second for hand movement.  This value is beneficial for calculating safety distances.  Read more about safety distances here!

Machine Safety Audits

Our company wants to be proactive. I want to find out which machines need safety upgrades.

As a safety expert in a machine-guarding company, I’ve visited places with tons of equipment spread across acres of floor space. These corporations, sometimes encompassing 300 or more various machines, face a significant challenge: Finding out which machines need safety upgrades.

But how do we even start with such a daunting task? Well, we can perform a machine safety audit!

An important distinction is that an audit is not a risk assessment. Risk assessments are usually more specific, focusing on tasks or equipment risks. On the other hand, safety audits are broader in scope, evaluating overall safety management systems. I will cover safety audits in the next section.

A safety audit can be both proactive and reactive. In contrast, a risk assessment is inherently proactive, aiming to mitigate risks before they result in accidents.

Choosing the Right Machine-Guarding Company: The Importance of Experience

When choosing a machine-guarding company to perform an audit, prioritize experience above all. A company with extensive experience in various types of machinery is invaluable. For example, during my tenure in the safety industry, I could audit up to 60 machines daily. This efficiency stemmed from my vast experience in guarding installations, which enabled me to identify safety deficiencies in machinery quickly.

An experienced auditor can often recognize issues at a glance, especially with specific machinery models known to have certain safety flaws. Ask the machine-guarding company about their past experiences and what challenges they overcame. Ensure they have a solid track record and that they can demonstrate their knowledge and skill in dealing with diverse machinery types.

Opting for an inexperienced auditor is risky and could result in missing some critical safety issues.   This could lead to injury or, at the very least, result in extra costs.  Therefore, when selecting a machine-guarding company, the depth and breadth of their experience should be your primary criterion.

The company Ferndale Safety, for example, has machine safety experts, each with decades of experience behind them.  They even have a team of installation technicians that have seen almost every type of machine in existence. The Ferndale Safety team has performed machine safety audits in almost every state and province from coast to coast.  You should seek this kind of experience in a machine-guarding company.

A machine safety audit conducted by a specialized machine-guarding company aims to achieve several key objectives. The initial phase involves a comprehensive walkthrough of the entire property, an essential step in the machine-guarding audit.

During an audit, a machine safety company will:

Step 1: Locate and record the machinery.

Detail: Auditors meticulously catalog every machine, ensuring they don’t overlook anything. This includes primary operational machines and ancillary equipment.

Purpose: Accurate documentation is crucial for compliance and safety planning, ensuring a holistic approach to safety.

Step 2: Verify each machine for safety compliance.

Process: Each machine undergoes a thorough inspection against current safety standards, checking for stuff like exposed moving parts, pinch points, and other hazards.

Outcome: This helps identify non-compliant and at-risk machines, laying the groundwork for necessary upgrades.

Step 3: Engaging with Machine Operators.

Interaction: Direct discussions with operators provide insights into machine usage, potential risks, and unique operational considerations.

Benefit: This engagement is vital for understanding the real-world application of safety measures and tailoring solutions to specific needs.

Step 4: Providing Recommendations

Guidance: The safety company offers tailored recommendations for each machine, covering immediate and long-term safety enhancements. This phase also includes a critical element where they may propose to perform a more comprehensive risk assessment on specific machines.

Strategic Planning: Recommendations often include a phased upgrade approach, allowing companies to prioritize based on risk and budget considerations.

Risk Assessments

We have just installed a new production line and must identify and control hazards.

Ah, this is where you should seek a machine-guarding company or consultant specializing in risk assessments for your industry. For example, if you use industrial gas-fired furnaces, you will need an expert in combustion and explosion hazards, confined space entry, and ignition sources.

Various professionals can perform a risk assessment depending on the context and specific needs of the assessment.

Key categories of professionals who can conduct risk assessments

  1. Certified Safety Professionals (CSPs): These individuals have been certified in occupational health and safety. They possess knowledge and experience in identifying workplace hazards and recommending appropriate control measures.
  2. Industrial Hygienists: Specialized in identifying, evaluating, and controlling environmental factors in the workplace that may affect worker health, industrial hygienists are well-equipped to perform risk assessments, especially those related to chemical, biological, and physical hazards.
  3. Occupational Health and Safety Officers: Often employed within larger organizations, these professionals ensure workplace safety compliance and are skilled in conducting risk assessments to identify potential hazards.
  4. Engineers: Depending on the industry, engineers (especially those focusing on safety, mechanical, or industrial engineering) are often involved in risk assessments, mainly when it involves machinery, structural safety, or industrial processes.
  5. Environmental Health and Safety (EHS) Specialists: These professionals ensure that an organization’s operations comply with environmental laws and regulations and conduct risk assessments related to environmental impact and workplace safety.
  6. Fire Safety Experts: In scenarios where fire risk is a concern, fire safety experts or fire protection engineers are the go-to professionals for risk assessments.
  7. In-House Staff Trained in Risk Assessment: Some organizations train their employees in risk assessment techniques. While this can be effective for routine assessments, seeking external expertise for more complex or high-stakes assessments is often beneficial.
  8. External Audit Firms: External audit firms focusing on industry-specific safety and compliance standards can be engaged for comprehensive audits that include risk assessments.

Some jurisdictions require particular professionals. For example, in Ontario, Canada, the law states that only an Ontario-licenced professional engineer can do risk assessments. Verify your local rules and regulations to be sure.

Choosing a machine-guarding company with the appropriate expertise and experience relevant to your specific industry or the type of risk assessment required is essential. In many cases, a collaborative approach involving a combination of these professionals provides the most thorough assessment.

Engineering, Fabrication, Installation

I have completed a risk assessment or safety audit and need help implementing safety recommendations.

Choosing the right company is crucial when you’re ready to implement safety recommendations following a risk assessment or safety audit.

Keep your eyes peeled for a company with a strong track record in implementing safety improvements, particularly in projects similar in scope and complexity to yours. They must have specific expertise in your industry, as different sectors have unique safety challenges and regulatory requirements.

A company that offers comprehensive services is ideal. They should be capable of handling everything from installing safety equipment to training your staff on new safety protocols and covering all aspects of the implementation process. Customization is vital; the company must provide solutions tailored to your specific needs, adapting their services to fit the unique characteristics of your workplace and the specific recommendations from your audit.

A Machine-Guarding Company Must Know Safety Standards

Knowledge of current safety regulations and standards is a must for ensuring that all implemented changes comply with legal requirements. A collaborative approach is also essential. The company should work closely with your team to understand the nuances of your operation and ensure that the safety measures are integrated seamlessly into your existing processes.

Training capabilities are an essential part of the implementation. The company should be able to offer comprehensive training to ensure your employees are well-versed in new safety protocols and safety equipment. After-implementation support is just as crucial, which could include follow-up evaluations to ensure the safety measures are adequate or provide ongoing maintenance and support.

In assessing the quality and reliability of a machine-guarding company, look for reviews, testimonials, or case studies from previous clients. Additionally, a company with relevant certifications or credentials in safety management and implementation often indicates a commitment to quality and best practices in the field.

The right company for implementing safety recommendations combines technical expertise, industry experience, and a commitment to customized, compliant solutions. This company should emphasize collaboration, training, and ongoing support to enhance your workplace’s safety effectively.

One such company, Ferndale Safety, is renowned for having a top-tier quality team of experienced field technicians, engineers, fabricators, and safety professionals. Their custom guarding and fabrication shop is famous for top-quality products and craftsmanship. Ferndale Safety’s fabrication shop is supported by a fantastic team of fabricators, safety engineers, and designers. Not least, their field installation technicians and turnkey department install coast to coast and in three countries: USA, Mexico, and Canada.

Standard Guarding Products/Online Store

We need to install a specific guard on a machine. Our maintenance department can handle the installation.

Machine-guarding companies that offer an online store provide a convenient platform for purchasing safety equipment and accessories. These online stores typically feature a wide selection of products, such as fixed guards, interlocked guards, adjustable guards, self-adjusting guards, safety sensors, emergency stop controls, and safety signage. They ensure that each product is accompanied by comprehensive details, including specifications, dimensions, materials, and compatibility information, aiding customers in making informed purchasing decisions.

In addition to the extensive product range, these companies prioritize customer support, offering services like product selection assistance, installation guidance, and help with compliance questions. Many have user-friendly websites with product categories, making it easy for customers to navigate and compare different items.

Furthermore, these websites often host educational resources such as blogs, articles, and videos, providing valuable information on machine guarding best practices and safety tips.

Some online stores offer custom machine guarding solutions for businesses with unique machinery or specific guarding requirements.

Regarding logistics, they provide various shipping options to suit different budgets and delivery timeframes, and international shipping might be available for overseas customers.

After-sales services are also a key feature of these stores, including policies on returns, exchanges, and warranty claims. Secure and versatile payment options are standard, with most stores accepting major credit cards and sometimes purchase orders from established businesses.

When considering purchasing from an online machine-guarding company, it’s important to research its reputation and customer feedback. Ensuring that the products meet necessary safety standards and regulations and understanding the shipping costs and return policies is crucial for a satisfactory purchasing experience.


When selecting a machine-guarding company, it’s crucial to understand that not everyone is equal. Each company brings its own set of strengths, specializations, and approaches to safety solutions. Therefore, you must recognize that you may need to engage multiple companies to address your project’s safety needs comprehensively.

Look for partners who offer robust safety solutions and understand your specific environment’s unique challenges and requirements. Consider their track record, industry expertise, and commitment to customer support.

The objective extends beyond compliance with safety regulations; it’s about nurturing a safety culture ingrained in your operations. By thoughtfully choosing machine-guarding companies that align with your diverse needs and uphold your values, you invest significantly in your employees’ well-being and your business’s overall success.

This decision is fundamental to maintaining a safe, productive, and responsible workplace, underscoring that a one-size-fits-all approach is often insufficient in machine safety.