Machine Safety

A variety of machines are used in the plastics production process.  These machines can cause severe injuries, including fatalities, eye loss, amputations, burns, cuts, and bruises, if the machines are inadequately guarded.

Plastics processing machines are complex pieces of equipment requiring such guarding to protect employees from nip points, numerous moving parts, and exposure to high voltage and high temperature. Injury may result from guards that are missing, improperly installed, removed, or bypassed. General guarding safety is discussed below.

Guarding Safety

An important machine guarding concept is the "point of operation." The point of operation is the area on a machine where work is performed on the material employees are processing. Machines that usually require point-of-operation guarding include (among others) shears, milling machines, power saws, press brakes, and riveters.

Employers can prevent entry of body parts (which occurs when a body part of an operator is able to reach through, over, or around the guard) by installing point-of-operation guards, which prevent contact with machine moving parts and protect the operator. Point-of operation guards, once installed, prevent the operator from reaching inadvertently into the point of operation area. Such guards also require an operator to use both hands to use the machine operating controls.

Point-of-operation guarding devices include barrier guards, two-hand tripping devices, and electronic safety devices. These devices protect not only the operator of the machine, but nearby employees as well, by protecting against flying chips and sparks.  

Plastics Machinery Types & Safety Measures

OSHA has developed guidelines and safety measures for two specific types of plastics machinery: horizontal injection molding machines and thermoforming machines. These types of machinery, along with proper guarding measures for each, are discussed below.

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