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Safe Supply Chains: Machine Guarding in Material Handling

Protective equipment available for machine guarding includes barriers, shields and interlocking devices. Image courtesy of Folding Guard®.

Contributor: ProGMA of MHI

Whether in a micro fulfillment or last mile-focused facility, material handling and supply chain industries play a critical role in the movement of goods from production to consumption, but it is important to consider the role of heavy and complex machinery and the safety precautions that should be taken. Implementation of protective guarding measures is a crucial piece of the prevention of accidents and injuries, with machine guarding being a key element to safety.
Machine guarding is the practice of protecting workers from harm by enclosing or shielding hazardous areas of machinery. This includes using barriers, shields and other physical structures that prevent workers from coming into direct contact with moving parts that could cause injury, such as gears, belts and blades. In the material handling and supply chain industry, machine guarding is particularly important due to the frequent use of machinery such as conveyor systems, palletizers and automated storage and retrieval systems.

The use of machinery in the material handling and supply chain industry can pose significant risks to workers if proper precautions are not taken. Moving parts on machinery can cause serious injuries, such as lacerations, fractures and amputations, if workers come into direct contact with them. Additionally, machinery can also pose a risk of crushing or trapping workers if they get too close. Machine guarding is critical to preventing these accidents and ensuring a safe working environment in the material handling and supply chain industry.

It is important to follow best practices and stay up to date on industry standards and regulations. Here are some best practices to consider:

  • Regular inspections and maintenance are essential to ensuring protective equipment remains effective. Image courtesy of SpaceGuard Products.

    Comply with OSHA regulations: The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) sets the standards for safe working conditions in the United States. OSHA regulations require employers to provide a safe working environment and implement measures to protect workers from hazardous machinery. This includes implementing machine guarding measures to prevent accidents and injuries. Ensure your company complies with OSHA regulations by regularly reviewing the latest standards and guidelines.

  • Conduct risk assessments: Risk assessments are an essential component of machine guarding. They help identify potential hazards and determine the best protective measures to implement. Start by identifying all machinery in the workplace and evaluating the potential risks associated with each. Consider factors such as the speed and movement of parts, the proximity of workers to the machinery, and the size and weight of parts. Based on this information, determine the appropriate level of protection required and implement it accordingly.
  • Choose the right protective equipment: There are several types of protective equipment available for machine guarding, including barriers, shields and interlocking devices. When selecting protective equipment, consider factors such as the size and complexity of the machinery, the size and weight of parts, and the level of protection required. Choose equipment that is appropriate for the specific hazard and is easy to use and maintain.
  • Provide training and education: Training and education are crucial components of implementing machine guarding correctly. Ensure workers are aware of the dangers associated with machinery and understand how to use protective equipment correctly. Employ regular training sessions to educate workers on the importance of machine guarding and the dangers of bypassing safety measures. Make sure that employees understand the process and procedures for reporting accidents and incidents— make this a key part of the training.
  • Regularly inspect and maintain equipment: Regular inspections and maintenance are essential to ensuring protective equipment remains effective. Schedule regular inspections to check for damage, wear and tear, necessary repairs or when replacement of equipment is necessary. WMHS

The Protective Guarding Manufacturers Association (ProGMA) is committed to the development and promotion of industry best practices for protective guarding and safety. To learn more, visit

*This blog was created with the assistance of a GPT chatbot powered by OpenAI’s GPT-3 model. For more information, visit

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