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Industrial machinery can pose a number or risks to employees and even passers-by if they aren’t used properly. Fingers, limbs, and even entire bodies can be caught in moving parts. Materials may be ejected with considerable force. Some machinery can have hot or slippery surfaces, or present a risk of electrocution from exposed wires and metal parts. It’s essential for legal and personal reasons to ensure that machines are used and maintained properly. Here are some ways to protect your employees.

1. Prepare a Checklist

Prepare and post a pre-use checklist for each machine that encourages employees to verify that the machine is safe to use. Items on the list should include ensuring that all safeguards are in place, machine panels are attached and secured, there’s no visible damage, no leaks, no exposed electrical connections, and no debris or excess material that could obstruct moving parts or impair functionality. Require that machines be cycled at least once to ensure they’re working properly.

3. Clear Policies

Your business should implement clear policies and practices for safety. These policies should be shaped around your industry’s particular hazards, posted in an obvious location, and verbally explained to all your workers at least once a year. These policies not only protect your employees from harm, but they also protect your company from injury lawsuits and worker’s compensation claims.

Be sure to regularly update your safety policies as any new concerns arise. Also make sure that your policies are in line with all federal and state regulations to protect your company. OSHA regulations are easily found online.

2. Regular Maintenance

Maintenance personnel should schedule and perform complete equipment checks. This might include checking for loose or worn parts, low fluids and leaks, proper electrical current, calibrations, and ensuring that all safeguards are in place. OSHA recommends that all machinery have safeguards, rails, alerts, and formalized operating instructions for safe use in place. Changes to configuration or programming should only be carried out by qualified personnel.

3. Safety Zones

All potentially hazardous machines should be placed a safe distance from traffic lanes and other machinery. This helps to ensure that other employees and equipment stay clear of the machine and the operator to avoid interference and accidents. It’s a good idea to tape or paint brightly colored lines around the machine and operator’s area to make these limits clear.

4. Proper Dress and Behavior

Be sure machine operators don’t have long hair or loose clothing and jewelry. Also, you should discourage any horseplay or idle conversations while the machine is running. Be aware that even when employees act irresponsibly, you may still be held liable for any physical harm that occurs, including potential worker’s compensation claims. In the event that litigation does take place, to understand your rights and obligations, be sure to contact a business lawyer.

There are several different issues that can come up during machine operation. Set ups, clearing blockages, maintenance, repairs, and daily operation must all be considered in terms of safety. Proper training and barriers at all hazard points are essential.