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Manufacturers, designers and suppliers of machinery and equipment are legally required to make sure dangerous parts are safely guarded so that operators and others are protected from injury.

A guard may be any shield, cover, casing, physical or electronic barrier intended to prevent contact between a hazardous machine part and any part of a person or a person’s clothing. 

Considerations for designers, manufacturers, suppliers and purchasers

Control the risk

Old machinery is sometimes poorly guarded. Hazard areas may include extra moving parts like shafts, sprockets and pulleys that may have been added for various other uses. Original guarding may have also been removed for maintenance and not put back. There may be times when an operator may need to reach over, under, around or into a machine while it is running. If so, any moving parts or other hazards must be appropriately guarded from human contact.

Some of the hazards associated with machinery and likely to cause injury include:

  • Rotating PTO and other shafts, for example joints, couplings, shaft ends and crank shafts. 
  • Gearing, including friction roller mechanisms, cables, sprockets, chains, clutches, cams or fan blades. 
  • Keyways, keys, grease nipples, set-screws, bolts or any other projections on rotating parts. 
  • Any pulley or flywheel that incorporates openings, spokes, protrusions, etc, that renders it anything except totally smooth. 
  • Any crushing or shearing points, such as augers, roller feeds, and conveyor belts. 
  • Rotating knives, blades, tines or similar parts of power driven machines that operate in or near the ground. 
  • Any machine component that cuts, grinds, pulps, crushes, breaks or pulverises . 
  • Hot parts of any machine.

Machinery being accidentally started during maintenance. (for more information see Guidance note - Isolation of plant.) 

Risk management: the three step process

Guards and safety devices

Depending on the situation a combination of two or more of the following guards may be required to ensure workers’ safety:

  • Permanently fixed barriers (guards)
  • Interlocked physical barriers (interlocked guards)
  • Physical barrier securely fixed in position (fixed guards)
  • Physical barriers
  • Presence-sensing systems
  • Two handed controls
  • Combination of guards
  • Safe systems of work for unguarded areas

The code of practice for guarding provides detailed information on types of guards   

Guards and safety devices

Guards for different machines

  • Exposed rotating cutting machinery
  • Pulleys and drives
  • Rotating shafts and rollers
  • Power take offs (PTO)
  • Power stamping presses
  • Press brakes (mechanical and hydraulic)
  • Conveyors (bulk handling)
  • Robotics

The code of practice for guarding provides detailed information on guards for different machines. 

Other machinery safety issues

The code of practice for guarding provides detailed information on other machinery safety issues such as:  

  • Work organisation
  • Safe work procedures
  • Isolation
  • Emergency stop devices
  • Controls and buttons
  • Inspection, cleaning, repair, maintenance and emergency procedures
  • Weight
  • Moveable guards
  • Colour coding 

Other machinery safety issues

Further information



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