SAFETY SOLUTIONS: What You Should Know about OSHA and Plastic Working Machinery
Do you have a panel saw, table saw, radial arm saw,
bandsaw or any other specialty piece of plastic
working equipment? If so, OSHA is targeting your
industry for machine guarding hazards.
WASHINGTON -- The U.S. Department of Labor’s
Occupational Safety and Health Administration surveys
employers to collect workplace injury and illness data it
uses to identify employers whose injury and illness rates
are considerably higher than the national average. A letter
has been sent to about 15,000 workplaces with the
highest numbers of injuries and illnesses resulting in days
away from work, restricted work activities or job transfers,
known as the DART rate.
“Receipt of this letter means that workers in that particular
establishment are being injured at a higher rate
than in most other businesses of its kind in the country,”
said Assistant Secretary of Labor for OSHA Dr. David
Michaels. “Employers whose businesses have injury and
illness rates this high need to take immediate steps to protect
Employers receiving the letters also were provided
copies of their injury and illness data, along with a list of
the most frequently cited OSHA standards for their specific
industry. The letter offered assistance in helping to
reduce workplace injuries and illnesses by suggesting,
among other things, the use of OSHA’s free safety and
health consultation services for small businesses provided
through the states.
OSHA identified businesses with the nation’s highest
rates of workplace injuries and illnesses through employer-
reported data from a 2009 survey of about 100,000
worksites. (This survey collected injury and illness data for
calendar year 2008.) Workplaces receiving notifications
had DART rates more than twice the national average
among all U.S. workplaces.
OSHA’s consultation program is available to assist in
addressing safety and health in the workplace for employers
with 250 or fewer workers. This program is administered
by a state agency and operated separately from
OSHA’s enforcement program. The service is free and confidential,
and there are no fines even if problems are
found. Designed for small employers, the consultation program
can help an employer identify hazards while finding
effective and economical solutions for repairing them. In
addition, the OSHA state consultant can assist in developing
and implementing a safety and health management
system for the workplace.
A list of OSHA’s consultation services is available at
Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970,
employers are responsible for providing safe and healthful
workplaces for their employees. OSHA’s role is to assure
these conditions for America’s working men and women
by setting and enforcing standards and providing training,
outreach, education and assistance. For more information,
Machine guarding hazards are addressed in specific
standards for the general industry and construction standards
but what may not be known about how OSHA operates
is that they also inspect machinery to ensure they
meet the American National Standards Industries ANSI O-
1.1. This standard ensures that employers are meeting
their obligation for safe operation of these types of
machines. OSHA Section 5(a)(1) of the OSH Act, often
referred to as the General Duty Clause, requires employers
to “furnish to each of his employees employment and
a place of employment which are free from recognized
hazards that are causing or are likely to cause death or
serious physical harm to his employees.” Section 5(a)(2)
requires employers to “comply with occupational safety
and health standards promulgated under this Act.”
I have surveyed over 20,000 pieces of machinery over
the past 39 years I have worked in industrial safety. My
company specializes in machine guarding audits and
remediation. Our reports show that approximately 98 %
of the machines we have surveyed were missing power
outage protection, emergency stops, proper machine
guards and many other safety items. I have written a few
machine guarding guides that are available free of charge.
My OSHA Training Institute students at California State
University Dominguez Hills, Carson California have stated
they really assist their machine guarding endeavours.
To see if your machines meet some of the OSHA standards
you can check them to ensure that they do not
restart after a power failure. OSHA states 1910.213(b)(3)
“On applications where injury to the operator might result
if motors were to restart after power failures, provision
shall be made to prevent machines from automatically
restarting upon restoration of power.” To check for this
major hazard, follow these steps:
If you need to install power outage protection, please
ensure that you do not purchase any product that has a
UR rating on its device since it is not a UL component and
OSHA would cite you for utilizing this product.
- Ensure that the machine is in the off position and that
it is safe to operate.
- Start the machine in its normal fashion according to the
manufacturer’s operator’s manual.
- Without touching the start/stop buttons pull the plug or
use the machine disconnect to shut down the machine.
- When the machine has stopped, plug the machine back
into its power source.
- If the machine restarts it does not have power outage
Examples of Panel Saw Safety
If you are using a panel saw, ensure that you place it
against a wall if the rear side of the machine is unguarded.
You can also install a trough guard on the rear of the
machine. Follow the tips below to properly use a panel saw
and safeguard yourself and employees from danger.
1. Use a Blade Guard
There are two types of guards that you can use on the
The first mounts on the trunnion assembly and
is very traditional. The second guard is placed over the
arm and mounts on the extension table. Both of these
guards are incredibly effective, but each has differing characteristics.
The first guard moves with the blade as it is tilted, which
translates to a narrower side shield. You should also consider
if the guard adjusts itself based on the size of the
materials you are feeding through it. Using a guard does not
mean you are completely safe from getting hurt, as operator
error is often a cause of injury. Not all jobs will be able
to be completed with the use of a guard so when you have
to remove it make sure you follow all other safety measures.
2. Height of the Guard
If you are using a guard that does not adjust itself then
you are increasing the chance of injury. You want to make
sure that the guard is as effective as it can be for your
operating circumstances. Before you begin using the panel
saw, make sure that there is minimal clearance from the
guard to the top of the material being used. Doing this will
help ensure that the guard is properly utilized.
3. Height of the Blade
Many who operate a panel saw will tend to set the
height of the blade much higher than it actually needs to
be. This is a dangerous practice that does not have to be
continued. The blade's gullet is designed to clear the
waste material. The blade will continue to function correctly
with the height of the blade set to the gullet's bottom
as long as it clears the material by no more than 1/4".
Anything more than that will or can lead to injury.
4. Positioning of the Hand
Just because a guard is used does not mean the
machine is completely safe. Each application of the
machine is different and has to be treated as such. Before
starting any job, always find the right location for your
hands. This will change for each job you do so you will constantly
have to reposition your hands for a safe distance.
Push sticks and other devices are there for your use and
safety and should be used when necessary.
If you own a bandsaw you must guard above the table
and also below the table where the saw blade is usually
exposed since the manufacturer rarely guards this area.
If you have a disc sander, belt sander or spindle, these
machines are always missing the point of operation guard
since the manufacturer does not offer a guard for these
machines. We have developed guards for all of these
machines. Be careful when purchasing the guards from the
internet. Many of these specialty guards do not meet
OSHA mandates nor do they meet ANSI O1.1.
As a reader of the magazine, if you have questions on
how to guard a machine or if you need a free purchase
specification where your company places all of the responsibility
for proper guarding of your machines on the manufacturer
or any other machine guarding issues, contact
me at firstname.lastname@example.org and we will send
you free safety information. I have been guarding
machines for 39 years and I am a member of the
American National Standards Institute for many machine
guarding safety standards so we will guide you on how to
properly protect your employees.
For more information,