The Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 gives the Secretary of Labor the authority to promulgate standards relating to occupational safety and health on the basis of information provided to him / her by concerned and qualified organizations such as the American National Standards Institute (ANSI), National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), National Electrical Code (NEC) or individuals. The National Institute for Occupational Safety & Health (NIOSH) is authorized under Section 22C of the Act to develop and establish recommended occupational safety & health standards.

An extremely important area of the Occupational Safety & Health Act of 1970 are the Federal OSHA standards, which protects a machine operator from hazards, associated with machinery and its operations. However, too frequently, the purpose of machine safeguarding is misunderstood in that it is thought to concern itself with the point of operation hazards only.

The definition of Point of Operation is "The area on a machine at which work is performed on the material being processed". Too many times the positioning of electrical controls, separate & properly installed emergency stops, guarding of belts and pulleys, non-slip walking surfaces, protection from flying chips and sparks, and proper color-coding of machine guards and parts are often neglected when manufactures are building equipment or when safety professionals are conducting inspections of machinery.

Specifically, machine safeguarding protects against and prevents injury from the following sources:

  • Direct contact with the moving parts of a machine

  • Splashing of hot metal or chemicals and metal chips from machine tool operations

  • Mechanical and electrical failures (Power outage protection)

  • Human failure, resulting from human traits such as curiosity, distraction, fatigue, worry, anger, illness, as well as deliberate chance taking.

An effective machine safety program must begin with a thorough analysis of the potential hazards created by the machines used in your facility. You need to identify the specific hazards both mechanical and non-mechanical. Basically, your goal in conducting a hazards analysis will be to identify existing or potential hazards at each phase of the machines' operation. On the basis of this analysis, you will then be able to determine the best way to reduce or eliminate those hazards.


hazard analysis consists of four elements:

  1. Determine the steps in operating the machine. For example:

    • What hazard(s) is the operator exposed to when he / she is setting up or starting up the machine?

    • What hazard(s) is the operator exposed to when performing a particular job?

    • What hazard(s) are present when the operator or maintenance person must make adjustments on the machine?

    • What hazard(s) are present when performing cleaning or clearing of the machine?

  2. Identify existing or potential hazards for each operating step. For each step there may be one or more existing or potential hazards associated with whatever actions the operator is taking. Example: is the worker wearing clothing or jewelry, or does the operator have long hair that could get caught in the machine?

This content is only available via PDF.
You can access this article if you purchase or spend a download.