Summer 2001 Volume 13

Feature Articles

A high school shop student working on a bench grinder suffers a severe eye injury when a metal chip is released into the air. A maintenance worker in a print shop suffers a crushed hand while cleaning a folding machine. A factory worker suffers a fatal injury when his shirt gets caught in a driveshaft. According to Roger Harrison, director of training for Rockford Systems, Inc., a nationwide leader in machine safeguarding products and training, these are just a sampling of injuries that could be prevented with proper machine safeguarding.

Harrison, who has helped train EMC loss control specialists, defines machine safeguarding as any means of effectively preventing personnel from coming in contact with moving parts of machinery or equipment that could cause physical harm. According to studies, 15 percent of all work injuries and 20 percent of disabling work injuries involve machines or power equipment. Yet, one of the simplest and often the least expensive means of preventing an injury is proper machine safeguarding.

Proven Machine Safeguarding Techniques
’Safeguarding is a loss control strategy that is as appropriate in the school shop as it is on the manufacturing floor,’ notes Harrison. “It can be accomplished by several proven methods.“

  • Barrier guards — This is the most common method of machine safeguarding. These guards are physical barriers that are mounted on or around a machine to prevent access to the hazardous moving parts. Today, machine manufacturers usually provide built-in guards that conform to the design and function of the machine. Manufacturers may also provide guards for retrofitting older machinery that are presently not equipped with guards. The guards may incorporate interlocks that shut down the equipment if guards are opened or removed.
  • Safety devices — Safeguarding workers during machine operations may require one of the following: pressure-sensing devices that stop the machine if the worker's hand is placed in the danger areas, devices requiring the operator to use both hands to operate the machine, thus keeping both hands out of danger, or feeding and pulling tools that keep the worker’s hands away from the point of operations.
  • Lockout/tagout procedures — This procedure was developed to protect workers from unexpected startup of equipment or release of hazardous energy while performing service or maintenance. It requires that energy sources for equipment be turned off and either be locked or labeled with a warning tag.
  • Training — Even the most elaborate safeguarding system cannot offer effective protection unless workers know how to use it and why.

Machine Safeguarding Protects Your Business In More Ways Than One
While the main purpose of machine safeguarding is the protection of the operator, it also protects your business from financial loss resulting from costly OSHA fines, unnecessary insurance claims and lost time due to worker injury. In addition, a safeguarded machine increases productivity by improving operator confidence and efficiency.

“There is absolutely no reason to overlook machine safeguarding in your comprehensive loss control program,” concludes Roger Harrison. That is why EMC loss control specialists make it a point to attend Roger’s training sessions, keeping up on the latest techniques, strategies and devices to help you prevent workplace injuries and fatalities. Contact your local EMC agent to find out more about the value of machine safeguarding or visit Rockford Systems at www.rockfordsystems.com.

Examples of Safeguarding

American drivers know what to do to keep highway construction zones safe - slow down, stay alert and be patient. But what can road construction crews do to enhance the safety of highway work zones?

A recent report from the National Institute for Occupational Safety & Health (NIOSH) assesses some of the risks and makes recommendations to improve the safety of construction workers in work zones.

According to NIOSH, between 1992 and 1998, 841 workers were killed in highway and street construction zones. Of those, 465 were vehicle or equipment related fatalities. When motorists are included, the total work-zone death toll was 868 in1999 alone.

Titled Building Safer Highway Work Zones: Measures To Prevent Worker Injuries from Vehicles and Equipment, the report recommends that road construction crews adopt the following safety procedures.

  • Develop better internal traffic plans for projects to protect workers from heavy equipment operating within the construction zone.
  • Replace the familiar mesh-fabric reflective vests and the old orange T-shirts with the new generation of high-visibility clothing. This clothing, with its 360-degree visibility, sleeves and large surface area, makes a worker bright day or night.

Understandably, reducing the amount of highway work zone fatalities will require a concerted effort on the part of both road construction companies and the American drivers who must continue to remember to slow down, stay alert and be patient.

The Labor Department said in its semiannual regulatory agenda that they are planning to revise the process safety standard for the chemical industry later this year. Explosions at chemical plants in the past few years have raised questions of whether the existing rule adequately covers reactive chemicals.

In addition, the Labor Department plans to launch rulemakings on confined spaces in construction and a new health rule for silica.

Other rulemakings currently underway at OSHA, which are now labeled as long-term actions in the regulatory agenda, include:

  • Regulations to protect healthcare workers from tuberculosis.
  • Employer requirements to have comprehensive safety programs.
  • Indoor air quality and smoking in the workplace.

OSHA plans to act upon the following regulations by December 2001:

  • General regulations covering walking/working surfaces and personal fall protection systems.
  • Assigned protection factors for respirators.
  • Hearing loss protection in the construction industry.

Watch for more information about these matters in future issues of Insight or visit www.osha.gov.

Severe power shortages predicted for this summer could increase the risk of damage to electronic equipment. In fact, the greatest threat comes after a utility brownout or blackout when the power is turned back on and a burst of electricity surges through the lines.

EMC loss control specialists and its partners at Hartford Steam Boiler Inspection and Insurance Company recommend several steps to minimize equipment breakdowns related to power quality problems.

  • When the utility institutes a brown-out or after a blackout occurs, pull the plugs for sensitive equipment and turn switches to the off position.
  • Once full power is restored, plug the equipment back in and turn switches, but do so one piece of equipment at a time.
  • Install surge protection devices, inside and outside your building. It’s important to have protective devices on all potential paths of electrical surges.
  • Keep written procedures on what to do in a power emergency in a central location. Include emergency contacts, such as the electrical contractor, etc.

More detailed information about power quality problems and solutions is available through your EMC agent or on Hartford Steam Boiler's website, www.hsb.com. Search for “Today’s Risk and Issues,” and then click on Power Quality.

  1. Safeguard against contact with moving machine parts.
  2. Shut off power, perform lockout/tagout procedures and release residual energy before unjamming, servicing, lubricating or adjusting machinery.
  3. Employees should avoid wearing jewelry and tattered or loose clothing around machinery. Hair should be short or restrained.
  4. Avoid stepping or reaching across running machinery.
  5. Replace guards after servicing machines.

Answers to the following questions should help you determine the safeguarding needs of your workplace.

Do the safeguards provided on your machines meet the minimum OSHA requirements?

___Yes   ___No

Do the safeguards prevent or control workers’ hands, arms, and other body parts from making contact with dangerous moving machine parts?

___Yes   ___No

Is there a system for shutting down (lockout or tagout) the machinery before safeguards are removed?

___Yes   ___No

Do operators and maintenance workers have the necessary training in how to use the safeguards and why?

___Yes   ___No

For additional information about OSHA’s machine safeguarding requirements visit www.OSHA.gov.

Fraud Posters Available Online
As part of its ongoing effort to help businesses control insurance losses, EMC is getting involved in the battle against workplace insurance fraud. You can join in the fight by posting fraud prevention posters in your business. To order your free posters, visit the Policyholder Information & Resources page to find Safety Signs at www.emcinsurance.com or contact your local EMC agent.

Disaster Preparedness Information Available
Ideally, the best time to take steps to reduce your vulnerability to natural hazards is before they strike. To help you prepare, EMC policyholders have access to a comprehensive library of free disaster preparedness materials available through the Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety. You'll find a link to the DisasterSafety.org website at www.emcinsurance.com.

Summer 2001