Article

FAQs – Machine Guarding

Why do machines need guarding?

  • Many industrial machinery are inherently dangerous. Generally, newer machinery is designed with the correct level of guarding. However, older machinery or machinery not designed to New Zealand standards may present more risk than WorkSafe would be comfortable with. If this is the case additional guarding would need to be installed.

What is machine guarding?

  • Practically, it is controls put in place to stop operators and people working around machinery from being harmed by the machinery. This may be physical guarding or safety-related control systems, or both.

What types of machines should be guarded?

  • Essentially, it comes down to the risk that a machine represents for causing harm and the consequences of an incident occurring. The type of machine is not so important. It is also important to keep in mind that not just the parts of the machine directly used to carry out work could represent a hazard, for example an exposed drive mechanism of a drill press represents a hazard of entangling loose clothing or hair.

Won’t guarding just make my machine more difficult to use?

  • In some cases this may be the true, but well designed guarding shouldn’t do this. At the end of the day safety should be considered above productivity. With this said, depending on the risks involved there are ways of avoiding installing cumbersome guarding. These include using technology like light curtains, two-handed controls, and pressure-sensitive devices. However, these are usually more expensive options. Another option is developing task-specific safe working procedures. However, this is only allowed if installing guarding is not reasonably practicable.

What does “reasonably practicable” mean when it comes to machine guarding?

  • The term “reasonably practicable” is used in the new Health and Safety at Work Act to describe actions expected of employers as well as employees to ensure health and safety within their level of influence, knowledge, and responsibility. Certification of machine guarding to AS/NZS 4024 – Safety of Machinery can serve as proof that you have taken all reasonably practicable steps to protect people against being harmed by the machine.

What are the consequences from not guarding my machinery?

  • Practically, not having adequate guarding on your machinery increases the possibility of operators and other workers being injured at work. From a regulatory perspective, if you get a visit from WorkSafe and the inspector believes your guarding is not up to their requirements they have a few options open to them depending on the compliance gap. They can either issue a spot fine, a prohibition notice, or an improvement notice. More information on these can be found on the WorkSafe website.

How can I avoid a fine or Work Safe prohibition notice or improvement notice for my machine guarding?

  • Effectively addressing any hazards identified in the applicable Work Safe guides and relevant standards should keep the Work Safe inspector happy. For example, if you use a band saw in your workshop, you need to have all the controls in place as recommended by the Work Safe fact sheet for band saws available on the Work Safe website. It is also important to be able to show that you have taken all reasonably practicable steps to ensure the safety of the operators and the people working around the machinery.

How do I identify the risks associated with my machines?

  • You can do a risk assessment exercise by following the process described in the WorkSafe Best Practice Guidelines for Safe Use of Machinery. Broadly speaking, this process involves identifying the hazards that each machine represents, and then looking at the likelihood of the hazard occurring and the the seriousness of the consequences of the hazard occurring. A chartered professional engineer experienced at working with and using AS/NZS 4024 and other safety engineering related standards is the perfect person to engage to assist with this.

Why should I use a chartered professional engineer to help me with my machine guarding?

  • A chartered professional engineer carries professional indemnity insurance, which means that they take on the liability for the effectiveness of the machine guarding that they recommend and gets installed. Chartered professional engineers are also the only professionals who are bound by statutory regulations to safeguard the health and safety of people.

Where can I find more information about machine guarding?

  • As the designated regulator of the new Health and Safety at Work Act, WorkSafe New Zealand provides useful and practical guidance to employers and employees on safe use of machinery on their website.

Where do I start?

  • If you are not sure about the hazards and risks present at your workplace, a risk assessment of all your machinery can be done to identify hazards present, and where the highest areas of risk lie. As impartial professional engineers, we can provide an objective assessment and clear recommendations on how to most effectively address any machine guarding issues.

If you have any other questions about machinery safety, or Safety Engineering in general, don’t hesitate to give us a call us (03) 371 7593.

 team member
Dr. Louw Butler

PhD, MScEng, BEng
Contractor

e louw.butler@bvt.co.nz