Construction Health and Safety Consultancy and CDM Adviser Services

On Guard! Why You Need to Make Sure Machinery is Properly Guarded
Posted by David Cant on May 6, 2015

On Guard! Why You Need to Make Sure Machinery is Properly Guarded

Stop Accidents Road SignIf you’re working in any kind of construction – then it’s pretty likely that you’re working with a lot of machinery hanging about.

Question is – is that machinery properly guarded?

That’s a question three Hertfordshire firms failed to ask themselves – resulting in some tragic consequences for one of their workers, when a road worker’s arm was trapped in a chip spreader.

The worst part of this sad story is that it was totally avoidable – had the companies done the proper safety checks!

In fact, in the past year there were 14 fatalities and nearly 14,000 non-fatal injuries due to machinery! With nearly 4 million working days lost – that’s a pretty significant impact on any business.

Which goes to show that making sure you know what’s what when it comes to machine guarding is definitely worth your time.

So what should you be doing to make sure your machinery is safe and properly guarded?

Check the regulations!

First port of call – you should check that you’re up to the mark.

The Machine Safety Regulations are a pretty comprehensive set of regulations that tell you the basics of what you should be thinking about. Have a gander over to the HSE site and read up!

As a little taster – here’s what you need to know:

  • All machinery should meet the essential health and safety requirements of the Machinery Directive
  • You should check that you do conform to the Directive – and have a proper Declaration of Conformity to prove it
  • You must have user instructions – in the language of the end user
  • All machinery must be safe
  • Nearly all new machinery should have the CE mark
  • A technical file should be kept at all times to demonstrate compliance

Do a proper workplace risk assessment

Following the Directive is a great start. But when it comes to applying them practically, you need to add a little common sense too.

And a thorough workplace risk assessment will help you do exactly that.

You should be thinking about any moving parts involved with the machinery – as these are the most common cause of accidents.

And you’ll also want to think about the different ways the machinery is used. For instance, as the Health and Safety at Work folks point out, did you know that for a lot of industries, accidents are more likely to happen when they’re being maintained or cleaned, rather than when they’re being used normally?

The most common guards out there

So you’ve read the Directive. Done your risk assessment. Next question – qhat kind of guards should you be using?

There are 4 main types – and each of them work slightly differently:

  • fixed guards – you might have guessed it – these are fixed permanently in place on a part of the machine
  • trip guards – these have a trigger such as a pressure mat, which spring into action when someone is in the danger zone
  • automatic guards – these are usually gates or bars that come on when the machine is on and keep users away from the danger zone
  • interlocks – this is a moveable guard which comes on and prevents the equipment from being used without it

Your takeaway points

–       Make sure that you meet all the regulations properly

–       Read the Machine Directive and ensure you comply

–       Do a full risk assessment – and don’t forget to cover maintenance periods

–       Choose the right type of guard

Simply having a guard in place is just the start – making sure you’re vigilant when it comes to machinery is absolutely essential!

Do you work with machinery? What are the biggest safety issues you’ve faced with them?


David Cant is a Chartered Safety and Health Practitioner extraordinaire. He has a wealth of Industry experience and is the MD of Veritas Consulting. David also Blogs about Health and Safety here Health and Safety Consultants

His aim is to flavour Health and Safety with integrity, served with a side of humour You can find David on - Twitter and Google also Linkedin

This post has been filed in: Competent Person Service, Construction Health and Safety, Health and Safety Services, Health and Safety Support


  1. Rob Smith
    March 9, 2017 at 11:25 am

    The Machinery Safety Regulations? – By this do you mean The Supply of Machinery (Safety) Regulations 1998 or The Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998 (PUWER 98)?

    The Supply of Machinery Safety (Safety) Regs. are the implementation of the Machinery Directive into UK legislation. These are aimed at manufacturers (or authorised representatives in EU) and suppliers of machinery.
    PUWER 98 is aimed at employers to ensure that the work equipment that they provide is safe for employees to use.

    CE marking of machinery, under the machinery directive, is a claim by the manufacturer that the equipment meets the Essential Health and Safety Requirements (EHSRs). This does not guarantee that the machinery is safe to use.
    All machinery (under the machinery directive) supplied for use after 31st December 1992 must carry a CE mark. Machinery provided for use prior to 31/12/92 does not need to meet the requirements of the Machinery Directive, but must meet the requirements of PUWER 98.
    Machinery which was provided for use prior to 31/12/92 and has been subject to significant modification, i.e. a manual control Lathe which has been fitted with a computerised control, after this date will need to meet the requirements of the Machinery Directive, EHSRs, and be CE marked.

    The Technical File will be held by the manufacturer and would not normally be passed on to the end user.

    Guarding follows a heirarchy (F.I.A.T.)-
    1. Fixed guards
    2. Interlocked Guards
    3. Automatic Guards
    4. Trip Guards

    • March 13, 2017 at 4:32 pm

      Hello, Rob

      The Machinery Safety Regulations are keywords for The Supply of Machinery (Safety) Regulations 1998 unlikely for someone to search for the latter. that’s the Only reason.

      You have provided a good explanation and added value to the article, thanks for dropping by.

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