OSHA requires machine guarding for the parts of a machine that are liable to cause injury. Workers can get their limbs sliced, crushed or cut off entirely if they come directly into contact with the “pinch points” in a machine. Every year in Minnesota and across the U.S., some 18,000 cases arise of workers being injured in this way.
Every employer must choose the type of machine guarding that suits their equipment the most. There are several types, including fixed guards, which are permanent and come with no moving parts; adjustable guards, which are also permanent but can be adapted to the size of the material being fed into the machine; and self-adjusting guards, which do the adapting automatically. These last types are often fitted to table saws and woodworking equipment.
There are also interlocking guards, which can immediately shut off the machine when they are opened or removed: an important feature when one needs to clear a jam in the machine. Such features, though, cannot replace the need for thorough employee training. Employees should know to inspect all machinery before use. They should be trained on lockout and tagout procedures, too, in case machines unexpectedly energize. If a guard is damaged, employees must place a sign or something else as a warning and then report the situation.
Machine-related injuries can open the way to a workers’ compensation case, but victims may want a lawyer to assist them with the process. It could be that the employer will deny payment, saying that the victim was to blame for the incident. With a lawyer, victims may file their claim and any necessary appeals. If they are successful, they might receive wage replacement, coverage for all medical expenses and, if applicable, short- or long-term disability leave.