Those who design or specify manufacturing machinery should be intimately familiar with the ANSI and OSHA machine-guarding standards. The ANSI B11 standards address not only guarding but a broad spectrum of safety issues for machine tools. Manufacturers may find OSHA requirements, found in Subpart O of the regulations, to be useful. But the OSHA enforcement mandate is directed to employers, not equipment manufacturers.
Employers are held responsible for ensuring the safety of employees by guarding equipment properly. The manufacturer of the equipment, or its system integrator, is often better equipped to design guards, interlocks, and other engineering controls. Consequently, users may want to seek help in selecting and installing safety-related features and options. Even for machines with adequate guarding, employers should regularly inspect safety equipment. It is not unusual for employees to remove or disable guards or interlocks as a means of more easily accessing the work, to cycle the machine more quickly, or to speed up maintenance.
Inexperienced employees also tend to overlook proper lockout/tagout during maintenance. Employers unable to show they regularly inspect and enforce such rules run the risk of being cited by OSHA.
New employees need both general and specific safety training before they operate potentially dangerous machinery. General training can help the employee recognize hazards, think about how to avoid accidents, and comply with company safety policies. Specific training on a machine can sensitize the employee to the severity of the hazards and the risks involved, particularly if safety equipment or procedures are circumvented.
The same goes for temporary workers. Host employers should coordinate with staffing agencies to ensure workers get adequate training before operating machinery or performing other potentially hazardous tasks. They should be particularly careful with temporary employees’ claims of experience on a given machine or task. Such claims may be exaggerated.
Finally, an employer must be prepared to enforce its safety policies and penalize workers who refuse to comply. If the employer does not take its safety responsibilities seriously, workers cannot be expected to do so, either.