Cleaning a jammed conveyor, reaching for a wrench, or retrieving a dropped glove are common tasks. Yet, each of these acts can lead to a serious injury. Many injuries occur during equipment maintenance. Sometimes workers try to reach past the guards while trying to service equipment or get caught in power transmissions such as belts, pulleys, running rolls, chains, or sprockets. Other injuries occur when equipment is unguarded or when machinery starts unexpectedly.
If some basic precautions are taken, protecting workers from these injuries can be simple, and inexpensive. Inexpensive physical controls such as machine guards can prevent many injuries. The important thing is that the guards remain in place. Bright, contrasting colors painted on machine guards and points of operation give workers a visual warning and can make it easy to spot missing guards. Good lighting also helps spot dangerous conditions or unguarded machinery.
Regular maintenance by experienced workers can make a big difference in preventing equipment jams and in reducing the risk of injury from being caught by or falling into machinery. Employers should establish and train workers to follow safe work practices around machinery and other electrical equipment. The law requires equipment to be turned off and locked out during any maintenance to prevent someone from turning it on unexpectedly. Workers should recognize and understand the following when working around machinery:
- The location of machine guards and points of operation.
- The purpose of color-coded machinery alerting workers to hazards and to help pinpoint missing guards.
- The danger of pinch points and importance of guards on in-running rolls, belts, pulleys, chains, and sprockets.
- Know and follow established lockout/tagout procedures.
- Know when machines have been shut down for maintenance or to clear jams.
- Assure that machines remain off while they are shut down for maintenance.
- Know and observe electrical safety work practices developed by the company.
- Understand the importance of keeping machinery clean to prevent equipment jams.
The surest way to safeguard worker hands and fingers is for everyone to stay alert when working around machinery or moving equipment and to follow established company safety practices and use common sense.