Jul 12, 2014

Going Beyond Benefits Administration: Workplace Safety Tips for Machine Guarding

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Editors Note: In an effort to provide the best benefits administration services to our clients, their employees, and their employees’ families in the automotive, roads, and fuels industry, the following is the third installment in our ongoing series of educational bulletins featuring real life events. Visit our most recent installment here, Company Safety Policies Need Management Commitment—6 Tips to a Safer Worksite. Each anecdote has been taken from the archives of AWANE’s Automotive Industries Compensation Corporation (AICC) program and is designed to help inform, prepare, and protect businesses and their people from the everyday hazards within their workplace and beyond.

Why Workplace Safety Policies Are Critical for Working with Machinery

Prior to operating any equipment, the employee should receive training on proper operation, safety devices, and safety requirements.” –Safety Consultant (insurance).

A lack of proper training and understanding of safety protocol is any business’ worst enemy — no matter the work environment. But this is particularly true of factory or workshop settings where machine tools are used on a day-to-day basis.Workplace safety policies are a must. The reason most companies place an emphasis on training employees is because it can drastically cut down the amount of injuries and fatalities that occur in the workplace and thereby reduce workers compensation claims, sick days, and disability claims.

The following is a first hand story from a workplace safety professional showing what can happen when senior management fails to follow it’s own company safety policies:

“When I worked for a large insurance carrier, I received a phone call from the claims department requesting I visit a client who had an employee who ended up having three fingers amputated after an accident. The claims department wanted to evaluate if the machinery was defective from a safety protection standpoint so possible subrogation proceedings could be brought against the manufacture. 

Upon arriving, I discussed the circumstances surrounding the accident with the owner and shop supervisor and was informed the injured employee had worked for the company less than two hours. The equipment was an old power press and the manufacturer of the equipment was no longer in business.

I asked the owner if the employer had received any training on the power press. He stated there was a training program but they needed to have the parts produced quickly to meet an order and so the training had not been completed.

The power press, although old, did have a two-hand control device to protect employees operating the equipment from the point of operation. The safety device requires the operator to actuate both controls simultaneously through the complete revolution of the equipment. The device was defective. The controls had been jury-rigged, allowing engagement of the power press by pushing only one control.

The employee had noted the metal piece to be formed was not centered.  As the employee actuated one control, he also attempted to beat the machine and his fingers were amputated by the machines’ dye.”

While there are no power presses referenced in AWANE’s Automotive Industries Compensation Corporation (AICC) program, there is equipment with belts and flywheels—and if and when not properly guarded, can result in amputations.

How to Follow Workplace Safety Policies When Working With Machinery

In order to prevent against workplace catastrophes, a company should employ a series workplace safety policies—safeguards related to both their machines and the operation of the machines themselves. Here are several ways a company can safe guard equipment:

  1. Guards: Fixed (most commonly used device in the AICC), Interlocking, Adjustable, or Self-Adjusting
  2. Devices: Sensing (Light Curtin as an example), Pullback, Restraint, Operational Controls (Such as Two Hand Controls), or Gates
  3. Location or Distance: Locating the machine so that the hazardous areas are not normally accessible
  4. Automatic Feeding and Ejection Methods
  5. Miscellaneous Aids-Shields, Feeding Tools, Holding Devices, or Awareness Barriers: These devices should be used as secondary protection and only used as primary protection when no other devices discussed above can be used
Now that you have an idea of what a safeguard looks like, consider these safety tips to help prevent workplace injuries when using any machinery:
  1. Training: The operator needs to be trained on the equipment so he/she knows all aspects of its operation. This includes proper operation of safety devices including inspection and testing procedures.
  2. Maintenance & Inspections: If your equipment and/or safety devices are defective, the equipment needs to be taken out of service and tagged. This is to prevent an employee from operating the equipment until it is fixed.
  3. Firm Policy Implementation: To avoid workplace accidents, management needs to develop policies that are strictly enforced and prohibit any employee from compromising safety devices on the equipment.
  4. Written Lockout/Tagout Procedures: A written lockout/tagout procedure needs to be developed to protect employees required to repair, set-up, or make changes to equipment—and safety devices need to be removed to accomplish the work task. The program should be a step-by-step policy outlining how the equipment will be de-energized. This includes a verification procedure to ensure all sources of energy (including any stored energy) have been removed.

In comparing the safety tips against the story told above, you can see that management failed to ensure a safe workplace. Training had not been completed and safety guards were defective. Unfortunately, these failures resulted in an employee losing three fingers—and stories like this are just all too common.


At AWANE, we strongly believe proper training is the key to preventing these types of workplace injuries. Contact us to learn more about what other benefits administration services we offer, or to hear more about the culture of safety we cultivate as part of our AICC worker’s compensation coverage program. And don’t forget to stay connected with our Health & Wellness Safety Tips—we’re always adding more tips to help you and your employees create workplace safety.