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Date PostedJuly 12, 2012

White Card Online News Update: The Importance of Machine Guarding in Construction

Earlier this year a bulk handling company in Victoria was fined $50,000 following an incident which left a worker seriously injured after his leg was caught in a machine. According to reports the workers leg became entangled in the machine which was not properly guarded. The company was found guilty of failing to provide a safe work environment for its workers because guarding rails were not installed. This tragic accident should alert other companies to the consequences of dangerous machinery not being properly secured. The worker involved sustained serious injury and had to get 100 stitches to his leg.

 This incident although horrendous and gruesome served as a reminder to other employers of the importance of machine guarding.

Many machines and equipment on construction sites can be dangerous and pose a variety of risks. These risks must be either eliminated or reduced. Quite often elimination of the risk is not possible, as the particular machinery is necessary for the task, in this case minimisation of the risk should be the next priority and this can be done by introducing guarding to prevent access of workers or their extremities to dangerous parts.

Every workplace using machinery needs to implement the appropriate guarding. Employers have a duty to protect the health and safety of their workers on site and according to the law part of that protection involves providing appropriate machine guards. These need not be elaborate or complicated and should not interfere with productivity in any way.

The first step in guarding machinery is to identify the hazards and the associated levels of risk. Employers should look at the safety characteristics of machines when purchasing new equipment and try to get suppliers and manufacturers to fit guards to your specifications.

Identifying the hazards or events that could give rise to a potential injury needs consideration, including the types of injury or illness they can cause such as lacerations or crushed fingers caused through inadequate machine guarding.

Parts of machinery that could present a risk are:

  • belts and pulleys
  • tools and dies
  • flywheels and gear wheels
  • guillotine blades
  • shafts and spindles
  • milling cutters
  • slides and cams
  • circular saws
  • chain and sprocket gears
  • drills and chucks

Machine parts to be aware of that could present a hazard are:

  • shear points
  • impact and crushing areas
  • cutting areas
  • entanglement areas
  • stabbing points
  • abrasion areas
  • flying particles
  • any protrusions which could cause injury
  • Drawing in points

Some of the hazards that can be controlled by fitment of machine guarding equipment are:

  • Employees arms or legs coming into contact with or being entangled in machinery
  • Worker being trapped between machine and material or fixed structure
  • Part of workers body coming into contact with material in motion
  • Worker being struck by ejected parts of machinery
  • Worker being struck by material ejected from machine
  • Release of potential energy

Employers should conduct a separate risk assessment for each machine and any associated system of work used with that machine.

Consultation between employers and employees is an important step to evaluate the effectiveness of implementing control measures such as machine guarding is essential.

If an employer has determined that a hazard cannot be eliminated or replaced with a less hazardous option, the next preferred measure is to use an engineering control.  Examples of engineering controls that can be introduced to minimise the risk of machine injury is introducing guarding, using enclosures, automating a process.

Where engineering controls cannot fully effectively control a health and safety risk, administration controls should be used.  This includes introducing work practices that reduce risk and limit employee exposure. These may include training employees in correct and safe operation, developing Safe Operating Procedures, reducing the number of employees exposed to the hazard, reducing the period of employee exposure, developing and implementing lock-out procedures or displaying the appropriate warning signs.

When all other control measures, both engineering and administrative have been introduced only then should Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) be introduced as it is a short term solution. Efforts to remove health and safety risks using Elimination, Engineering as well as Administration controls should be fully explored before PPE is implemented. Examples of PPE include safety glasses, vests, gloves, hard hats, hearing protection etc.

Posted by Steven Asnicar


Steven Asnicar is regarded as a leader across many fields of industry. In particular, his specialisation across the health, infrastructure, construction, resource and utility sectors has seen him successfully change the dynamics of these industries through the introduction of new strategic, marketing, training and technical frameworks. Steven works closely with industry peak bodies such as Safework Australia, Australian Logistics Council, National Advisory for Tertiary Education, Skills and Employment (NATESE) and the Council of Australian Governments in the development of new delivery standards and industry specific programs.

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