A couple of months back I wrote an article looking at the issues surrounding thrown objects, this article I suppose is the follow-up which looks further at machine guarding.  When you look at the definition of guard in the dictionary the word protect features in nearly every description, simple and easy to understand, a guard is there to protect. Yet we still see machinery being operated with loose, damaged or missing guards, worse still is the acceptance by the operators and in some cases those managing the operators and their machines who see nothing wrong with this situation.

We should all be familiar with the PUWER 98 regulations produced by the HSE, which go to great lengths to guide us all in the safe use of equipment should we be in any doubt of our responsibilities. It used to be that agriculture had a poor reputation in this area, especially when it came to PTO’s, you’ve all seen them, shafts spinning round with not a cover in sight or maybe there is a cover but it too is spinning round waiting to catch the flapping jacket of the unsuspecting operator.

Uncovered and unprotected moving parts, accidents waiting to happen!

You may have noticed that over the last couple of years that on most machinery the guards are now bolted in place where in the past they were secured with clips or pins which allowed easy access to the moving parts. Securing the guard more permanently ensures that operators are protected from those moving parts and can’t quickly remove a guard to find out what the funny noise is. This should make things safer if a little less convenient so what’s the problem with stopping the machine, getting a spanner, removing the guard, checking all is in order, replacing the guard and continuing with the operation. It may take ten minutes longer but then better to be safe than entangled in the workings.

There shouldn’t be any excuse for operating a machine with damaged or missing guards, it should be part of the machines daily inspection regime along with checking the levels, tyres and controls. If the guard is damaged, get it fixed and don’t use it until it is.  We all have responsibility in this area to ensure equipment is being operated and maintained in a safe condition, nobody should be put under pressure to get a job done by compromising on safety. Try telling a judge that you were too busy to get the machine fixed properly because the client was giving you grief. The HSE like us all is struggling with budget cuts and stretched resource but when it comes to a breach of compliance resulting in injury or worse they will take no prisoners. A couple of recent incidents applicable to our industry have seen hefty fines and suspended prison sentences dealt out to business who have neglected their responsibilities.

I’m sure whilst reading this article your thinking, my machines are in good order, I’ve nothing to worry about, well maybe they are, but whilst they’re being serviced make sure they are checked properly, not just the obvious guards but the little things that get missed or are seen as not important. Consider chainsaw and hedge cutter scabbards, they are supplied with the machines not only to protect the cutting edges but also the operators fingers, how many times have you seen hedge cutters with exposed blades in the back of a truck. What about the broken heat guard on the exposed exhaust, may seem a minor issue until someone inadvertently leans against the hot metal. Remember that Health and Safety is not somebody else’s problem, it’s everyone’s responsibility.

photo 3

May seen innocuous but what if your trousers were caught on the pulley.

Angus Lindsay

Angus Lindsay, Group Head of Asset & Fleet Management