Adherence to machine safety practices can help protect workers from fatal injuries in the workplace. Employers have a duty of care that includes ensuring that workers know how to safely operate machines in the workplace, and workers have a responsibility to themselves to follow safety protocols. When employers fail to properly train workers and workers ignore safety protocols, they are setting themselves up for a deadly day at the office.
9 Solid Machine Safety Tips to Live by
1. Train and Retrain Regularly. Workers should never attempt to operate a machine if they have not received proper training. Whether it’s a backhoe, auger, drill, cement mixer, etc., workers should undergo thorough training prior to ever touching the machine. Employers are responsible for providing this training. They also have a duty of care that requires them to supervise workers as they learn how to operate the machine. At no time should a worker feel pressured to operate a machine they are not qualified to operate or to operate a machine with known safety deficiencies.
2. Ensure Proper Machine Guarding is in Place. Improper machine guarding is one of the leading causes of workplace fatalities. When guards fail or are entirely absent, workers risk entanglement in moving machinery, contact with electricity, and thermal burns from contact with hot components or combustion processes. Machines should be equipped with either barrier guards or light curtains that are capable of preventing access to the machine and deflecting sparks, chips, and debris from exiting the machine during operation. Workers should never attempt to remove machine guards or operate machines with deficient, defective, or missing guards.
3. Wear Proper Safety Gear. Workers should always wear the appropriate safety gear and authorized personal protective equipment. From thermal suits and overalls to safety goggles and welder’s helmets, workers should never attempt to perform a task without the proper clothing and protective equipment. If safety gear is defective, it should be replaced. If it is damaged, it should be properly repaired before any further use occurs. Further, workers should always make sure they have no loose clothing, jewelry, or hair that can become entangled in the machine.
4. Hands off Moving Machines. Machines have many moving parts and hidden dangers. While it may be tempting to remove a jam, release a blockage, or push away debris, workers should always ensure the machine is turned off before attempting to service or clear a machine in the workplace. Further, workers should remain alert and focused while clearing jams or blockages as the gears in many machines can lurch forward and entangle workers or crush limbs in the process.
5. Pay Attention in Loading Zones. Loading zones are some of the most dangerous places in the workplace. Accidents on loading docks can result in fatal crushing injuries and career-ending slips and falls. Workers should always follow established safety protocols in loading zones to ensure that they don’t get caught in front of fast-moving forklifts, closing doors, and heavy loads that can topple atop them.
6. Stay Alert to Surroundings. As with loading zones, workers must remain aware of their surroundings and the operation of machines in their immediate vicinity. Workers should never operate machines while they are intoxicated or under the influence of prescription medications that impair their judgment or diminish their reflexes. Similarly, workers should avoid distractions such as headphones, conversations, etc. that can take their focus away from the safe operation of a piece of equipment.
7. Perform Regular Maintenance. Regular maintenance is essential for safe machine operation. Workers should ensure that each piece of equipment is properly maintained and serviced at regular intervals. Moreover, the service schedule should be adjusted if the machine is under a period of heavy use. Regular maintenance is crucial as it makes it possible to discover part failures before they can cause a fatal injury. Further, maintenance records must be properly maintained and all safety events logged so that supervisors and employers can review these records and adjust protocols before workplace injuries or job-related fatalities occur.
8. Speak up and Stay Safe. Workers should feel free to voice concerns about safety in the workplace with their employer. Fostering open communication in the workplace makes it possible for supervisors to respond to potential problems and implement a corrective solution before a fatality occurs. Workers should always feel comfortable with their supervisors and employers that they can voice safety concerns without fear of retaliation.
9. Never Leave Machines Unattended. Machines should never be left to operate without human supervision. If problems develop, workers can quickly shut down the machine and respond to issues before they can cause harm to themselves or to those working in close proximity to the machine.