Four days before Christmas 2021, a worker at a fruit processing plant noticed that a dicing machine was getting bogged down by a machine guard. He believed the dicer would work much more effectively if the guard was removed. The worker mentioned this to his supervisor, who told the plant owner.The plant owner approved the removal of the guard. The guard was removed. As the employee used his hand to move the fruit forward, his hand contacted the blade of the dicer. He lost three fingers.
Machine guarding – it’s important. There is a reason that guards are placed on machines. The worker at the fruit processing plant unfortunately learned that lesson the hard way. OSHA knows this. In 29 CFR Part 1910.212 (a)(1), OSHA wrote the following:
Types of guarding. One or more methods of machine guarding shall be provided to protect the operator and other employees in the machine area from hazards such as those created by point of operation, ingoing nip points, rotating parts, flying chips and sparks. Examples of guarding methods are – barrier guards, two-hand tripping devices, electronic safety devices, etc.
The first point in today’s safety tip is this: machine guarding is necessary. The word guard has several meanings. It can mean a person that is assigned to provide protection, or it can mean a safety device that provides protection. Both ways, protection is provided. Many machines, pieces of equipment, and hand tools have guards. The guards are in place to keep you safe. Do not remove them.
Also, when you inspect your machines, equipment, and/or tools, do you include the guards in the inspection process? Do you make sure that the guards can do the job for which it was designed? We highly recommend that guards be included in your workplace safety inspection checklist.
A second point: Before you judge the worker in the above story harshly, think back to last week’s safety tip. We shared a picture of someone standing in the open back doorway of a van that was in motion. People sometimes do unsafe things, because what they are doing makes sense to them at the time.The worker who lost the fingers thought he was being productive. The supervisor and plant owner thought the worker was right, that if they removed the machine guard, their dicer would be more efficient. They did what they thought was right at the time. Unfortunately, there was a sad consequence to their action.The worker lost three fingers. The plant owner received a large fine and a citation from OSHA.
This week’s discussion challenge is this: Do you have a workplace safety inspection checklist? What is on that list? Talk about it with your coworkers. Do they have anything they would like to have added to the safety inspection checklist.