Safeguarding Choices For Metal Cutting Saws 

Although OSHA’s Code of Federal Regulations does not have a machine specific regulation for metal cutting saws, 1910.212 General Requirements For All Machines says that one or more methods of machine guarding shall be provided to protect the operator and other employees in the machine area from hazards such as those created by point of operation, ingoing nip points, rotating parts, flying chips and sparks.
Choices for these safeguarding methods may include one or more of the following:

  • blade guards (fixed, movable, and/or interlocked)
  • polycarbonate shields (for chip/coolant control)
  • two-hand control (for parts that can be fixtured)
  • awareness barriers and devices (to prevent unauthorized people from being in the hazard area)

Although presence-sensing devices are also listed as a possible means of safeguarding, their practical application is often very limited.
Other point-of-operation safeguarding may include point-of-operation devices (two-hand control and/or push sticks) and safe holding (based on the size and shape of the part).
A correctly applied polycarbonate shield meets OSHA’s minimum requirement for preventing chips and coolant from striking the operator or from collecting on the floor where they might present a slip/trip hazard. Recent safety standards, however, contain new warnings regarding the lifespan of polycarbonate. The impact protection of this material may only be 2-3 years when exposed to cutting fluids on a regular basis. It is a good idea to keep replacement polycarbonate shields on hand. 
ANSI B11.10 clause 8 on point-of-operation safeguarding requires a safety (blade) guard to protect the operator from an exposed portion of the saw blade. Because it’s a primary requirement, safety (blade) guards have been provided on most saws by machine OEMs since the inception of OSHA in the early 1970s.

Do I Really Need to Safeguard My Machines?

Unguarded Lathe

Yes, you really do need to safeguard machines in your workplace. But to what extent can be a matter of interpretation based on minimum safety requirements (OSHA regulations), or best safety practices (ANSI standards).

Most employers are familiar with OSHA (Occupational Safety & Health Administration) and the enabled OSH Act of 1970. Under the OSH Act, employers are responsible for providing a safe and healthful workplace. Employers must comply with all applicable OSHA standards. Employers must also comply with the General Duty Clause of the OSH Act, which requires employers to keep their workplace free of serious recognized hazards.

By law, employers are legally required to follow OSHA regulations. That means an OSHA inspector will issue citations for noncompliance to their CFR (Code of Federal Regulations). OSHA’s CFR SubPart O—Machinery and Machine Guarding has six (6) machine specific safeguarding regulations which are:

1910.213 Woodworking Machinery
1910.214 Cooperage Machinery

1910.215 Abrasive Wheel Machinery
1910.216 Mills and Calendars
1910.217 Mechanical Power Presses

1910.218 Forging Machines

safeguarded lathe

OSHA regulations for safeguarding most other machines falls under 1910.212 General Requirements For All Machines which specifies that the operator and others in the machine area be protected from exposure to hazards.

However, ANSI’s B11-Series Safety Standards (which has 24 machine categories) are often used to fill in the details for specific safeguarding and can be used as reference material by OSHA inspectors. Even though ANSI safety standards are voluntary, they could become legally mandatory if an OSHA citation mentions specific ANSI standard for you to comply to.

The bottom line is that all employers should strive to exceed minimum requirements and abide by the best safety practices found in the ANSI B11 standards. The key to employee safety is to observe best safety practices at all times. After all, it could be a matter of life and death!