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Safeguarding 101What needs to be guarded, to what degree, and with what type of device

Throughout the world countless governing bodies and agencies as well as standards, regulations and policies have been established specifically with the goal of machine safety. Stringent safety standards mean that today’s machines are designed with greater safeguards for both the operator and process. However, the actual process of safeguarding may still raise the same questions to some as they have 20 years ago. What needs to be guarded, to what degree and with what type of device?


The Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) under the United States Department of Labor is responsible for setting forth polices to ensure safe working conditions which include machine safety as described in 1910 Subpart O - Machinery and Machine Guarding. The General Duty clause issued under the OSHA Act of 1970 states that each employer is responsible for supplying a workplace which is “free from hazards that are causing or are likely to cause death or serious physical harm”. The options to provide such a workplace are endless and knowing where to begin the process can be over- whelming.


There are a few regulations that call out requirements for specific machinery such as 1910.213 for woodworking machinery or 1910.217 for mechanical power presses, but these requirements are a bit abstract and leave room for interpretation.


Since the process to change or update regulations to a more current and clear set of documents can be long and arduous, OSHA suggests the use of the most current and relevant industry consensus standards be followed when needed in an effort to be sure employers are well informed when working to pro- vide a safe workplace. For example ANSI RIA15.06 is a current and relevant industry standard which is used to safeguard robot and robotic cell application. Another example is NFPA 79 which is used to ensure proper wiring practices are used.


It is clear that it is a requirement by law to provide a safe working environment. In order to provide safe working conditions we first need to know what is to be safeguarded, thus the first step in safeguarding is to identify the hazards or the risks associated with the machine. Identifying these risks is also one of the first steps in the risk analysis process. These risks include, but are not limited to: mechanical hazards such as rotating or sharp parts; electrical hazards such as live parts; radiation; ergonomic, etc. ISO 12100 Safety of Machinery — Risk Assessment is a current and relevant industry consensus standard which can be used as a guide to help identify machine hazards.


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