We ask this question to those that use or supervise the use of machinery because in our experience many machine operators think not. We often are told that operator experience and skill is what will keep them safe from injury. But on further questioning they mainly fail to understand the risks involved.
Now clearly each machine presents different types of risks but the fundamental requirement is to prevent access to any dangerous moving parts. Alongside this is the need to prevent contact with any items that might be ejected during the use of the machinery.
At a recent inspection of a workshop we found guarding on a selection of typical machinery (pedestal drills, lathes and milling machines) was missing. When challenged the operators response was that they were not needed and just got in the way of doing the job. One even sited that in 15 years of using such equipment he had never had nor seen a serious accident.
So does this make it safe to use such machinery without the guards or was this a situation of an accident just waiting to happen. Certainly from our experience operator skill is important but as most accident occur because of operator error then skill alone is not enough. We have seen far too many serious accidents where operator mistakes have ended with life changing results.
The company we carried out the inspection for were keen to understand the risks and the legal requirements of fitting suitable guards so responded positively and are making the changes necessary. As for the operators they are beginning to see the risks to both themselves and the business differently and why the changes need to occur.
The key is to undertake a risk assessment and provide suitable information, instruction and training to the workforce to ensure the guards stay in place.