Metal cutting guillotines

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Did you know? 

The most common metal guillotine injuries are crushed or amputated fingers. 

Most of these accidents are not caused by the blade of the guillotine, but by the clamps that hold the sheet of metal being cut. Other injuries are from fingers jamming under the sheet of metal being cut, and strain injuries while handling large and awkward sheets of metal. 

By law, guillotines must be guarded, operators must be trained and safe work procedures must be developed to prevent injuries. 

The following topics can be used as a guide for toolbox meetings to identify workplace hazards and to reduce the risks of metal guillotines.


Are the metal cutting guillotines in your workplace adequately guarded? See the  Code of practice - Safeguarding of machinery and plant for general and practical guidance. 

Are the guards rigid, of adequate strength, and securely attached so they cannot be removed from the guillotine without tools? 

Are all openings and clearances in and around the guard designed to prevent fingertips reaching the holding clamps or blade? 

Is the back of the guillotine guarded to prevent another person reaching the blade from the rear? 

Are other dangerous moving parts, such as the flywheel, gears or shafts, also guarded? 

Safe work procedures

Safe work procedures should be developed in consultation with employees and health and safety representatives and reviewed regularly to make sure they remain effective. 

It is an unsafe practice for two people to work at a guillotine unless both operators are provided with interlocked actuating devices (usually a foot control). However in some guillotine operations, for example cutting large sheets, two operators may be required to manoeuvre sheets into position before cutting.  For such operations safe systems of work, such as safe work procedures should be developed to control any hazards.

Does your workplace have written safe work procedures on or near the guillotine to describe the safe way of using the guillotine that ensure: 

  • guards or safety devices are never removed or adjusted, except by an authorised person; 
  • the machine is always locked out and tagged if a guard or safety device is removed for inspection or maintenance work; 
  • the correct safety steps are known by all operators for starting and stopping the machine, especially in an emergency 
  • all safety devices are checked before the machine is operated? 

Further information

Sample safe work procedure

Other safety requirements

Is the guillotine in your workplace set up to reduce the risk of injury, with the following safety essentials provided? 

  • lighting of the trapping space must provide at least 400 lux, positioned to avoid direct glare or unwanted reflections in shiny surfaces, in accordance with Australian Standard 1680 Code of practice for interior lighting and the visual environment; 
  • emergency stop control must be within easy reach of the operator; 
  • shrouded foot pedal designed to minimise the risk of unintended operation; 
  • power indicator that gives visible evidence that the power is switched on; 
  • offcuts should slide down a skid plate onto a trolley so that operators don't need to reach in behind the blade; and 
  • design of the machine should minimise awkward postures, so the operator's worktable and the machine bed are about waist high, and the controls are within easy reach. 

Is there anything about the type of work you do that may cause injury? 

Work materials should be laid out to minimise twisting, bending, stretching, reaching or carrying when handling sheets of metal - a fork lift or pallet lifter should be used to position sheets of metal at waist height next to the guillotine?

Caution should be exercised when guillotines used for cutting objects too small to be handled safely - a prominent notice warning against this should be fixed to the machine and clear instructions provided.

Gloves should be provided and worn for jobs that involve handling metal with sharp edges.

Instruction and training

Have all guillotine operators in your workplace been given appropriate instruction and training that includes: 

  • the purpose of guarding and safety devices, and how to check they are working correctly; 
  • hazards that occur during normal use of a guillotine, such as fingers getting crushed under sheet metal being fed into a guillotine; 
  • hazardous practices, such as riding the foot pedal; 
  • faults that may develop in a guillotine (eg. faults in the clutch, brake and guard mechanisms may show symptoms that the operator needs to understand); 
  • the importance of immediately telling the person in charge when any fault or operating problem arises; and 
  • never attempting to personally correct any fault in the function of a guillotine? 


Are all trainee guillotine operators closely supervised by someone with a thorough knowledge of the mechanics and safety of the machine until they are fully trained in its use? 

Is on-going supervision provided, to ensure safe work practices are being followed and the machines are working safely and efficiently? 

Does supervision include:

  • regular checks of the guillotine operator's knowledge and understanding of the mechanics and safe work procedures; 
  • regular checks to ensure all guillotines are mechanically sound and safe, and that safe procedures are being followed; and 
  • talking to employees about the safety of their work and the machines they operate? 


Is the guillotine in your workplace adequately maintained? Is there: 

  • an inspection and maintenance program aimed at keeping the guillotine and guards in a safe condition; 
  • a trained maintenance person, thoroughly familiar with the recommendations of the guillotine manufacturer, particularly those applying to guards, clutch and brake adjustment; 
  • a procedure to replace worn parts before they fail or cause an accident; and 
  • a program of regular inspections, where details of inspections and maintenance are recorded for future reference? 

Lock-out and tagging

Are isolating switches provided, and are lock-out and tagging procedures used during maintenance work on machinery such that: 

  • isolation switches are switched off; 
  • switches are locked out and tagged to inform others that maintenance work is being done; and 
  • the only key to the lock is in the possession of the person carrying out the maintenance? 

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