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Machinery & Machine Guarding, General Industry – Regulation 29 CFR 1910.212

Ranking: 10

A Workplace Story

From a California Case Report:

A 38-year-old machine operator was strangled when his shirt got caught on a rotating knob of a printing machine. The rotating knob did not have any guarding or protective barriers around it to prevent inadvertent contact. The victim had 14 years of prior experience operating similar machines and had received one-on-one training by an experienced machine operator. Although this incident was not witnessed, the victim was probably checking the status of the ink trays while the machine was running. He was able to reach the computer screen of the machine and shut the machine off, but unable to free himself from the rotating knobs.

The investigators recommended that, in order to prevent similar incidents, when employees work near moving machinery components, printing plant employers should ensure that safety features and appropriate guards are integral to printing machine design so that employees cannot become entangled and risk injury or death. In this instance, the printing machine was not manufactured with guards over the rotating knobs, and there was no mechanism to ensure that the knobs stopped rotating when the employee checked the ink tray status.

The Numbers

Enforcement from October 2019 through September 2020:

Total citations: 1,092

Total inspections: 994

Total proposed penalties: $7,442,593

Most Frequently Violated OSHA Standard Ranking–Number 9

Industries most often violating machine & machine guarding requirements in general industry:

Manufacturing (part 3 of 3): $3,060,650 in penalties

Manufacturing (part 2 of 3): $1,820,387

Manufacturing (part 1 of 3): $1,094,701

Wholesale Trade: $400,405

Retail Trade (part 1 of 2): $315,896

Administrative and Support and Waste Management and Remediation Services: $139,558

Other Services (except Public Administration): $76,340

Public Administration: $5,735

Transportation and Warehousing (2 of 2): $137,753

Transportation and Warehousing (1 of 2): $56,565


Machines can help improve production efficiency in the workplace. However, their moving parts, sharp edges and hot surfaces can also cause serious workplace injuries. Employee exposure to unguarded or inadequately guarded machines is prevalent in many workplaces. Consequently, workers who operate and maintain machinery suffer approximately 18,000 amputations, lacerations, crushing injuries, abrasions and over 800 deaths per year.

Amputation is one of the most severe and crippling types of injuries in the occupational workplace, and often results in permanent disability. Approximately 44% of all workplace amputations occur in the manufacturing sector and the rest occur across the construction, agriculture, wholesale and retail trade, and service industries.1 These injuries result from the use and care of machines such as saws, presses, conveyors, and bending, rolling or shaping machines as well as from powered and non-powered hand tools, forklifts, doors, trash compactors and during materials handling activities.

Safeguards are essential to protect workers from injury. Any machine part, function or process that might cause injury should be safeguarded. When the operation of a machine may result in a contact injury to the operator or others in the area, the hazard should be removed or controlled.

All machines consist of three fundamental areas: the point of operation, the power transmission device and the operating controls. Despite all machines having the same basic components, their safeguarding needs widely differ due to varying physical characteristics and operator involvement. The purpose of machine guarding is to protect the machine operator and other employees in the work area from hazards created by ingoing nip points, rotating parts, flying chips and sparks. Some examples of this are barrier guards, light curtains, two-hand operating devices, etc.


Among the provisions of OSHA’s Machinery and Machine Guarding – General Industry standard:

  • Guards must not create potential hazards and must be attached to the machine where possible.
  • If guards cannot be attached to the machine, attach elsewhere.
  • Machines that expose an employee to injury must be guarded. The guarding device must:
  • Be in conformity with any appropriate standards.
  • If specific standards are not available, the machine construction should prevent the operator from having any part of his/her body in the danger zone during the operating cycle.
  • Special handtools used for placing and removing material from point of operation areas must allow easy handling of the material without the operator placing a hand in the danger zone. Such tools must not replace guards required by this section: 29 CFR 1910.212(a)(3)(iii)]
  • The following machines usually require point of operation guarding:
    • Guillotine cutters
    • Shears
    • Alligator shears
    • Power presses
    • Milling machines
    • Power saws
    • Jointers
    • Portable power tools
    • Forming rolls and calenders
  • Revolving barrels, containers and drums must be guarded by an enclosure interlocked with the drive mechanism, so the barrel, gun or container cannot revolve unless the guard enclosure is in place.
  • When the periphery of the blades of a fan is less than seven feet above the floor or working level, the blades must be guarded. The guard must not have openings larger than one-half inch.
  • A machine designed for a fixed location must be securely anchored to prevent walking or moving. WMHS



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