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Machine guarding safety

Each year, about a dozen or so people are killed and over forty thousand are injured, some very severely when they become trapped in moving machinery that should have been safely guarded.

Employers who fail to maintain safety guards which are designed to protect workers or – which is worse – remove the guards for flimsy reasons put their employees at very serious risk. It’s been estimated that about a quarter of a million work days per year could be saved by employers if they stuck to the regulations regarding proper guarding for machinery.


Case Studies

1) A steel manufacturing company has been fined after a worker suffered crush injuries to his hand. He was removing leftover steel from a machine used for straightening steel wire when he trapped his hand between the rotating rollers inside the machine. He suffered serious crush injuries to his hand and lost the top of his right index finger.


An HSE investigation found the company failed to identify the risks associated with workers manually operating the machine. Steps were not taken to ensure the machine was correctly guarded. The company also failed to provide the required level of supervision to the activity and this led to the worker suffering the injuries.


The company pleaded guilty to breaching Regulation 11 of the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations (PUWER) 1998, was fined £200,000 and ordered to pay costs of over £17,000.


2) A company has been fined after a worker suffered life-changing hand injuries while operating machinery. He was working to clear a blockage when the index and middle fingers on his right hand were severed. The HSE investigation found a number of failings. A risk assessment was in place but was unsuitable and the company failed to ensure that the guards on the machine being used provided the necessary protection for the operators.


The company pleaded guilty to breaching Regulation 11 of the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998, were fined £30,000 and ordered to pay full costs.


3) A food production company has been fined after a worker’s hand was crushed in a meat separating machine. The 22-year-old worker was loading meat into the machine, when he fell and his hand entered the machine. He suffered serious injuries to his hand which later required surgery and skin grafts.


The HSE investigation found the company failed to implement a safe system of work for separating the meat using this machinery. The company failed to equip the machinery with the appropriate level of guarding to protect the workers from harm. The company pleaded guilty to breaching Sections 2 (1) and 33 (1) of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974, was fined £366,666 and ordered to pay costs of nearly £11,000.


What do the regulations require?


PUWER Regulation 11 – Dangerous parts of machinery


(1) Every employer shall ensure that measures are taken in accordance with paragraph (2) which are effective-

(a) to prevent access to any dangerous part of machinery or to any rotating stock-bar; or (b) to stop the movement of any dangerous part of machinery or rotating stock-bar before any part of a person enters a danger zone.


(2) The measures required by paragraph (1) shall consist of—

(a) the provision of fixed guards enclosing every dangerous part or rotating stock-bar where and to the extent that it is practicable to do so, but where or to the extent that it is not, then (b) the provision of other guards or protection devices where and to the extent that it is practicable to do so, but where or to the extent that it is not, then

(c) the provision of jigs, holders, push-sticks or similar protection appliances used in conjunction with the machinery where and to the extent that it is practicable to do so, and the provision of such information, instruction, training and supervision as is necessary.

[Note the hierarchy of measures here].


(3) All guards and protection devices provided shall

(a) be suitable for the purpose for which they are provided; (b) be of good construction, sound material and adequate strength; (c) be maintained in an efficient state, in efficient working order and in good repair; (d) not give rise to any increased risk to health or safety; (e) not be easily bypassed or disabled; (f) be situated at sufficient distance from the danger zone; (g) not unduly restrict the view of the operating cycle of the machinery, where such a view is necessary; (h) be so constructed or adapted that they allow operations necessary to fit or replace parts and for maintenance work, restricting access so that it is allowed only to the area where the work is to be carried out and, if possible, without having to dismantle the guard or protection device.

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