Workplace law requires all employers to provide their workers with a safe workplace and equipment in which to conduct their work. OSHA law can be in constant change for all industries, making it difficult to keep up. However, there are generally accepted safety regulations to be carried out, especially around stationary equipment.
This blog does not determine compliance responsibilities set forth in OSHA standards, the Occupational Safety and Health Act, or similar laws. Due to the fact that interpretations and enforcements will change over time, all readers should consult current regulations and decisions by OSHA and the courts. We also recommend visiting the The American National Standards Institute and their standards on the safe care and use of specific machinery.
What Types of Stationary Equipment are Considered Hazardous?
There is no such thing as a “safe” piece of equipment, even if it is stationary. Moving parts and electrical components are just a few of the many hazards that exist when working with industrial equipment. Employees can injure themselves around stationary equipment when they are performing any of the following functions:
- Equipment set-up
- Threading and preparation
- Normal operation of equipment including cutting, punching, bending, etc.
- Equipment adjustments
- Cleaning and lubrication of the equipment
- Clearing jams in the equipment
- Scheduled or unscheduled maintenance
Most Common Ways to Improve Safety around Stationary Equipment
There are two basic ways in which most types of stationary equipment are safeguarded: guards and devices. Both safeguards are designed to ensure employee protection and should be installed and certified by appropriate parties.
Safety Guards – The function of a guard is to provide a physical barrier preventing access to areas on the equipment that can cause injuries. Employees should not easily be able to remove or tamper with guards and should get approval before doing so, even if they have been certified to perform maintenance. Equipment should be taken offline when the guards are removed. Guards should also be installed so as not to create another hazard such as pinch or shear points between other machine parts or guards. They should also not be installed in an area where they obstruct an operator’s view. There are four types of guards: fixed guards, interlocking guards, adjustable guards, and self-adjusting guards.
Safety Devices – The function of a device is to halt the equipment’s operation to prevent workers from accessing a dangerous area while in operation. In some scenarios, devices can be used instead of guards or as a supplemental control when a guard alone does not prevent the hazard. Devices operate one of three ways:
- Interrupt the normal cycle of the equipment if the operator is at or near the point of operation.
- Force the operator to withdraw if they come into or near the point of operation as the equipment is cycling.
- Prevent a worker from reaching into the point of operation.
Other Ways to Improve Safety Around Stationary Equipment
There are other methods in which to safeguard equipment by sealing off its location. Equipment can also be guarded by feeding methods that are far enough away to keep the operator from accessing the point of operation.
Stationary equipment should also be regularly checked for the following:
- Electrical hazards
- Stability hazards
- Leakage of toxic or hazardous chemicals
- Leakage of flammable liquids or gases
- Proper training of employees in its usage
- Proper provision of safety gear such as goggles, gloves, etc.
- Adequate safety railing or handles on the equipment
For more on how to improve safety around your stationary equipment, consult your owner’s manual and visit the OSHA website for regular updates.