June is National Safety Month, which is sponsored by the National Safety Council. The month-long effort is to encourage organizations and employees to reflect on worker safety in order to prevent injuries and deaths on the job.

In many workplaces, employees are exposed to unguarded or inadequately guarded machines. This proliferation of poorly guarded machinery results in approximately 18,000 amputations, lacerations, crushing injuries, abrasions, and over 800 deaths per year. Disheartening statistics for equipment operators and others that come into contact with various machines on a daily basis.

All machines should and must be guarded to prevent these accidents and deaths from happening. The best place to start is by understanding the basics first. All machines consist of three fundamental areas and these areas are where most injuries and deaths occur:

1. Point of operation — is the point where work is performed on the material, such as cutting, shaping, boring or forming of stock.

2. Power transmission device — Power transmission apparatus are all components of the mechanical system that transmit energy to the part of the machine performing the work. These components include flywheels, pulleys, belts, connecting rods, couplings, cams, spindles, chains, cranks, and gears.

3. Operating points/parts — Other moving parts include all parts of the machine that move while the machine is working. These can be reciprocating, rotating and transverse moving parts, as well as feed mechanisms and auxiliary parts of the machine.
Even though all machines have these three components, the fundamental safeguarding requirements differ from machine to machine either due to the physical characteristics of the machine and the operator and the operator’s overall involvement with the machine.

The important aspect is for all machine operators to understand a particular machine’s hazards and how to protect themselves and others from risk of injury. Knowing how to properly operate the machine is vital. As well, as the operator becomes familiar with the machine, it should always be viewed as potentially hazardous and short cuts around safety should not be used. Machine guards on the equipment also improve safety as well as overall productivity.

Professional machinists fully know and understand what the machine does, how it operates, and when maintenance and repairs are needed to maintain the safety of the equipment. Having a national safety month is a great way to keep everyone focused on facility and machine safety. However, monthly reminders of the importance of safety when operating potentially hazardous machines are a better route to go in order to prevent accidents.