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Avoiding OSHA Fines: Machine Guarding

By Graphic Products Editorial Staff

Machine Guarding label example

OSHA produces an annual list of the Top 10 Most Frequently Cited Standards and year after year, machine guarding holds onto the number 10 spot. The phrase machine guarding is an umbrella term used to encompass all safe operating practices as well as maintenance procedures involved with industrial machinery. Machine guarding is an issue that affects a wide variety of workplaces and with some 18,000 injuries and over 800 deaths occurring annually, no wonder it’s on OSHA’s radar. Many industrial machines have roughly the same basic components, but their safeguarding needs widely differ depending on the physical characteristics and operator involvement. This leaves a lot of room for things to fall through the cracks and get missed. To cover such a wide variety of machinery, subpart O of OSHA’s 1910 Safety Regulations covers everything from table saws to multi-ton metal presses.

Avoiding OSHA fines can be accomplished through preemptive inspection and making the necessary adjustments to machinery and/or their guards. If you’re not sure what the guard requirements are for a specific machine always contact that manufacturer. The cost of equipping machines with the proper safeguards can seem expensive, especially for a large facility. But keep in mind these safety update costs are nowhere near what OSHA will fine you for endangering workers. Here are five of the biggest machine guarding fines from the last few years and how they could have been avoided, as according to OSHA:

  1. Ball Aerosol - $589,000

    Ohio manufacturer Ball Aerosol and Specialty Container Inc. was fined nearly $600,000 for repeatedly exposing workers to amputation hazards from unguarded machinery. The six citations focused on the manufactures’ slitter machines which exposed workers to both blades and pinch point hazards.

    The Solution: In this case, Ball Aerosol needs to make the decision to either have a large number of custom machine guards designed and built, matching the specifications of their machines or to purchase stock machine guards from the manufacturer to eliminate all gaps that create hazards.

  2. Hagel Metal Fabrication - $317,000

    An Illinois metal fabrication company was fined just over $300,000 for failing to comply with, “the most basic of safety precautions.” The investigations began after a 23 year old worker was fatally crushed by an automated laser-cutting machine.

    The Solution: During the investigation it was found that the worker’s death was completely avoidable had the laser cutting machine been outfitted with proper guard and if Hagel had adhered to standard lockout-tagout procedures. As a result of injuries investigation and citations, Hagel is now part of OSHA’s Severe Violator Enforcement Program.

  1. Adams Thermal Systems - $1.33 million

    A South Dakota manufacturer of engine cooling systems paid out over a million dollars as the direct result of a workers death caused by poor management and a lack of machine guarding. Management instructed and authorized workers to bypass the manufacture’s barrier guard in order to adjust the machine to keep it running. When done, one worker was fatally crushed. The accident investigation lead to 66 other on-site citations.

    The Solution: In this case, Adams Thermal Systems was held responsible for the death of an employee and paid a settlement to the victim’s family of $450,000. Beyond this, Adams has agreed to increase the size of its safety and health department; implement a companywide safety and health program; provide incentive for managers and workers to report safety issues and make safety recommendations. They have also agreed to hire a qualified third-party to review guarding and lockout-tagout for all plant machinery.

  2. Interlake Mecalux Inc. - $71,700

    A storage rack and shelving company in Illinois was fined $71,700 as a result of 17 serious violations, most of which exposed workers to amputation hazards on a daily basis.

    The Solution: Interlake’s two main issues were the identification and notification of possible amputation hazards. These issue can be corrected by adjusting training practices. Workers should be fully aware of all possible hazards on-site, correct machinery maintenance techniques as well as machine guarding requirements. Along with modifications to the training program, guards must be added to existing machinery and safety signage to indicate the presence hazards.

  3. Precision Custom Coatings LLC - $185,400

    A textile factory in New Jersey was fined $185,400 after a number of repeat violations including machine guarding. Here, danger tags were not used where machinery created an immediate burn hazard of 280 degrees. There was also no sort of heat insulating material or other guard on these machines. Employees did not use proper lockout-tagout signage during maintenance and unguarded portable grinders were used by employees.

    The Solution: It seems so silly to be cited for the same violation twice, yet it happens all the time. The first step to finding a solution at this facility, and many others like it is to take action! Precision could have saved thousands had they taken the simple steps to properly label hot machinery with danger tags and ensured lockout-tagout usage through proper training. This case is also a great reminder that even portable machinery, like grinders, require some kind of safe guarding.