Recent media reports have put a spotlight on machine shop injuries. A newly released study completed by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) regarding injuries in the workplace found over 34,000 people sustain a lost-time injury in the workplace annually due to machine accidents. Additionally, the Occupational Safety & Health Association (OSHA) just named the lack of machine safeguarding "Top Ten List" of frequently cited employee safety violations of 2019, with 1,743 violations issued.

What is behind these startling statistics? The answer is safeguarding, or more accurately, the lack of it. While machines play a critical role in the production process and allow employees to work with less effort, they are inherently dangerous. From grinders and drill presses, to milling machines and sanders, industrial machines are designed to operate at high speeds and pressures to cut, shred, bend, punch and crush metal. Without safeguarding in place, any physical contact with a machine's moving parts can result in severe injuries and even death.

Rockford Systems, a premier supplier of machine safeguarding and combustion safety solutions, has been protecting employees since 1971 -- the year that OSHA was first established. At that time machine shop owners were struggling with how to safeguard their machinery to meet the new OSHA regulations. Rockford Systems was there to assist them with both guidance and equipment. It was first to bring to market a complete turnkey guarding solution that converted unprotected machines into OSHA-compliant equipment, a concept that revolutionized the safety industry and put Rockford Systems on the map.

"Nearly 50 years after OSHA established its General Requirements for all Machines (29 CFR 1910.212), injuries continue in machine shops," said Carrie Halle, Vice President of Marketing and Business Development for Rockford Systems, LLC. "Our research has indicated that approximately half of all machine shops are still not guarded. Coupled with a lack of operator training, this creates a working environment that is high risk for both employees and employers."

Halle said that the first step to a safer workplace is to conduct a risk assessment of all machinery on the shop floor, as well as to document the procedures used by the operators. A risk assessment is a proven, methodical tool to identify, assess, and document the hazards of operating machinery, as well as quantify and prioritize risks according to their ranking or score.

However tempting, don't go it alone. Companies that engage in in-house guarding programs frequently get overwhelmed and distracted, plus lack staff with in-depth knowledge of all OSHA CFR 1910 regulations and ANSI B11 Series Standards. Leveraging a third-party team of safeguarding specialists, mechanical and electrical engineers, all of whom have dedicated OSHA, ANSI and NFPA 79 standards expertise, will allow manufacturers to reduce risk, improve compliance, and help keep workers safe at work.

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