Machine Guarding

Unbelievably, many workers each year are still being mangled by unguarded or poorly guarded machinery or equipment (or 'plant'). The results of these accidents are horrific - workers lose fingers, arms and in the worst cases are even killed - often because a machine lacked a guard costing very little.

Most of this sort of plant is regulated under Part 3.5 of the Occupational Health and Safety Regulations 2017 (see the summary of this part). There is also the 2019 Compliance Code for Plant which was updated to reflect the regulations, and provides guidance on risk assessment and control, including guarding.    

Regulations 99 - 100 provide a lot of detail regarding guarding of machines. Basically, IF the employer/self-employed person uses guarding as a control measure, then the employer/SEP must make sure it prevents access to the danger point or area of the plant. In other words, if the guarding is inadequate, it is the employer/SEP's responsibility to rectify this.

Other parts of the regulation stipulate further requirements, namely:

  • if access is not required during operations, maintenance or cleaning, then the guarding is to be a permanently fixed physical barrier;
  • if access is required, the guarding is to be an interlocked physical barrier;
  • alternatives if the above are not reasonably practicable, then the guarding used is a physical barrier that can only be altered/removed by the use of tools first, and if not practicable, then there must be a presence-sensing system in place;
  • ensuring that by-passing or disabling the guarding, whether deliberately or by accident, is a difficult as possible;
  • ensuring that the guarding will control the risk of parts being ejected from the plant;
  • guarding or insulating pipes or other parts of the plant to eliminate/reduce risks associated with heat or cold.