Debunking 3 Myths About Machining Safety

June 12, 2017

Injuries stemming from a lack of machine safeguarding significantly increase metal fabricators’ worker compensation premiums and mods. In addition, it can lead to expensive Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) citations, a figure that reached $6.8 million in 2015 for violations of Machine Guard Standard 1910.212.

The actual price tag for an injury is much higher, however, because indirect costs must be taken into account, such as damaged facilities or equipment, medical expenses, lawsuits, and replacement personnel. Worst of all, these accidents can cause extremely severe, potentially life-changing injuries to employees or even death.It is estimated that workers who operate and maintain machinery suffer approximately 18,000 amputations, lacerations, crushing injuries, abrasions and more than 800 deaths per year.

According to Rockford Systems, LLC., an Illinolis-headquartered provider of machine safeguarding products and services, the reasons for this continuing crisis are multifold, but three major factors stand out: manufacturers’ misunderstandings of OSHA machine safeguarding requirements, employee lack of training or inattentiveness while operating machinery and the mistaken belief that OSHA regulations are only guidelines, not the law.


MYTH ONE: New machines are safe because their manufacturers built them to meet up-to-date safety standards and regulations.

REALITY: This depends on the country where the machines were built and the safety standards that the machine manufacturer used as a guideline for control systems, electrical components, and safeguarding. It’s important for the buyer of new machines to specify the Safety Related Parts of Machine Controls SRP/CS that this equipment must comply with (see ANSI B11.19-2010). The buyer should not hesitate to spell out the clause numbers from either ANSI standards or from European standards where applicable. Remember that safety standards from European Union (EU) countries offer the highest levels of protection.

As part of ongoing market research, Rockford Systems recently purchased a new mill drill and drill press from a leading machine manufacturer. Both were found to be in dire non-compliance. OSHA violations for the drill press ranged from a lack of a safety shield to protect the operator’s eyes and hands from sparks, chips and razor-sharp debris, to missing an emergency stop button to prevent automatic restart following a power interruption. Absent from the mill drill were lockout plugs, an interlocked shield, emergency stop buttons and basic drop-out protection.

To underscore the dangers of non-compliant new machines, both the drill press and mill drill were displayed by Rockford Systems at the recent FABTECH trade show in Las Vegas. According to company officials, the majority of FABTECH attendees were unaware of the violations, even those who had extensive backgrounds in machine tools.

MYTH TWO: Older machines are “grandfathered-in” since they were manufactured before safety standards and regulations existed.

REALITY: Up until the late 1970s, OSHA did have a small number of grandfather clauses in its regulations, but these have long since expired. In order to be in compliance today, machines must meet minimum OSHA regulations. For companies wanting to meet a higher safety benchmark, ANSI B11 Safety Standards (series of 24) offer the best available guidelines for metal processing machines. These standards are updated on a regular basis, typically every five years. For example, the ANSI standard for “sweeps,” which the maximum amount of space allowed between the floor and the bottom of a perimeter guard, only recently was set at twelve inches. However, a rash of serious injuries prompted a change, reducing the allowed twelve inches to six inches.

MYTH THREE: OSHA regulations only act as safety guidelines for manufacturers and are not the law.

REALITY: Under the Occupational Safety & Health Act of 1970 (OSH) all employers are responsible for providing a safe, healthful workplace. Employers must comply with applicable OSHA standards and the General Duty Clause of the OSH Act which requires employers to keep the workplace free of serious recognized hazards. By law, employers are legally required to follow OSHA regulations, meaning that an OSHA inspector will issue citations for compliance to the Code of Federal Regulations. Specifically, OSHA 1910.212 General Requirements for Machines states the the operator and others in the machine area must be protected from exposure to hazards.

Once a manufacturer is cited for a violation, whether for new machinery or old, the best place to turn for advice is ANSI B11 series consensus standards that identify accepted options for safeguarding machinery. It consists of nearly three dozen different documents that deal with machine safety, and specify requirements for both the manufacturers and users of the machines. The majority of the ANSI B11 standards are machine-specific, offering “best safety practices” for one category of equipment only. One standard, however, ANSI B11.19-2003 entitled Performance Criteria for Safeguarding, serves as an “umbrella standard” for all machines in the B11 series. Its primary objective is to establish requirements for the design, construction, installation, operation, and maintenance of safeguarding.

OSHA’s machine guarding regulations have not changed since 1975 and therefore lack what employers need to know about current machine safety options. OSHA regulations have always been considered as a starting point only.


Despite the installation of proper machine safeguarding, a careless worker can still cause great harm to himself or to others due to negligence stemming from inattentiveness or a basic misunderstanding of safety regulations. Perhaps the worker has been told to operate machinery with little or no training. Or noise or other distractions has resulted in a loss of concentration. Inhalation of welding fumes and other emissions from lubricants or chemicals can also cause disorientation leading to accidents. Numerous injuries have been documented by OSHA when an employee chooses to remove or tamper with a safeguard. Protective decides may also be removed for maintenance or cleaning, and not re-installed.

Another factor contributing to operator errors is the complexity of the modern human-machine interface (HMI). Production technologies, particularly manufacturing machines in the metal industry, are highly intricate, heightening the operator’s mental workload and consequently the risk of errors. Mental strain is further intensified by associated demands for a faster pace of work by fewer operators. In this environment, state-of-the-art machine safeguarding is an absolute necessity.


Rockford Systems provides machine risk assessments to help identify the task and associated hazards on a machine shop’s equipment. Each hazards receives a score indicating the risk level using the ANSI B11.0-2015 safety standard methods. As part of the machine risk assessment, suggestions are provided to lower the hazard level and detailed documentation outline the results.

In addition, Rockford Systems offers an education program to help safety personal interpret and apply OSHA Regulations and ANSI Standards. These monthly two-and-a-half day seminars combine classroom discussion with live demonstrations on a number of machines to give attendees a practical, hands-on learning experience.

For more information about Rockford Systems risk assessments, seminars and safety solutions, visit

Source: Rockford Systems

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