Machine guarding keeps workers safe

Date Posted: 03/17/2019

Machine GuardingEach year, workers who operate and maintain machinery suffer approximately 18,000 amputations, lacerations, crushing injuries, and abrasions, and over 800 deaths due to unguarded or inadequately guarded machines.

When the operation of a machine or accidental contact has the potential to injure the operator or others in the vicinity, the hazards must be eliminated or controlled. OSHA's machine guarding standard at 1910.212 requires that any machine part, function, or process that may cause injury must be safeguarded.

General vs. specific requirements

While 1910.212 serves as a general "catch-all" requiring employers to protect workers from dangerous moving parts and to guard points of operation, OSHA also has some machine-specific standards found in 1910 Subpart O.


While most new machinery is available with safeguards installed by the manufacturer, used equipment may not be. In that case, it may be possible to purchase safeguards from the original machine manufacturer or an after-market manufacturer.

Safeguards also can be built and installed in-house; however, they must be designed and installed only by a technically qualified professional and should not interfere with the machine's operation or create additional hazards.

Regardless of their source, safeguards must be compatible with a machine's operation and designed to ensure safe operator use. The type of operation, size, and shape of stock, method of feeding, physical layout of the work area, and production requirements all affect the selection of safeguards.

What must employers do?

  • Determine the types of machinery in the workplace. Then, determine if there is a machine-specific standard (1910 Subpart O), or if the equipment is covered under the "catch-all" guarding requirement of 1910.212. Follow the applicable standard.
  • Provide one or more methods of machine guarding 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. Note: Some of the machine-specific standards prescribe specific safeguarding measures.
  • Ensure the point of operation of machines is guarded.
  • Ensure necessary guards are affixed and secured.
  • Anchor machines designed for a fixed location to prevent walking or moving.


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