WorkSafe VIC safety alert about operating plant with inadequate guarding

The following article is a news item provided for the benefit of the Workplace Health and Safety profession. Its content does not necessarily reflect the views of the Australian Institute of Health & Safety.
Friday, 16 April, 2021 - 12:45
Policy & legislation

WorkSafe Victoria recently issued a safety alert about the risks associated with operating plant with inadequate guarding after a worker was fatally injured while operating a hay bale pressing machine.

The risk of entanglement or crush injuries are significantly increased when the guarding on plant is missing, broken, has been removed or is not adequately secured.

This risk is increased if loose clothing, hair, personal protective equipment or other accessories such as tool belts become entangled and pull the person towards the moving parts of the plant.

The alert said to ensure guards are fitted to prevent access to any moving parts and nip points (points where rotating or reciprocating parts move toward each other).

Older machinery and equipment may not have guarding fitted as standard. Guarding should be retrofitted to prevent access to:

  • hard surfaces moving together (presses)
  • rotating end drums of belt conveyors
  • moving augers or auger conveyors
  • rotating shafts
  • moving parts that do not require regular adjustment
  • machine transmissions, such as pulley and belt drives, chain drives and exposed drive gears
  • any dangerous moving parts or plant

Where guarding is used as a control measure, interlocks form an important part of the guarding to ensure the plant is unable to operate without the guarding correctly in place.

Where access to the moving part is not necessary for tasks such as servicing, maintenance or cleaning, the guarding must be permanently fixed, so far as is reasonably practicable.

A fixed guard can be permanently applied by a bonding agent, welding or securing with one-way screws. A permanently fixed physical barrier provides the highest level of protection against hazards.

When accessing a moving part for tasks such as servicing, maintenance or cleaning, the alert said to:

  • ensure the plant is shut down and keys are removed or use a lockout/tag-out system before removing guarding to undertake the tasks
  • allow for plant stored energy and run downtime before commencing the work
  • inspect guards for damage and repair and replace all guards before re-energising and starting up the plant

The alert also pointed to the importance of information, instruction, training and supervision:

  • Provide employees with information, instruction and training on how to identify hazards associated with moving and rotating plant and how to safely operate plant and how to control risk.
  • Regularly review operating procedures, including lockout and tag out systems when undertaking service, cleaning and maintenance.
  • Provide regular toolbox meetings and maintain adequate warning signs as a constant reminder to employees of the potential hazards associated with the plant.