What’s the Difference Between Lockout/Tagout and Machine Guarding?

Posted on 2/27/2018 by Joel Gregier

When operating or working around dangerous machinery, workers can sustain serious injuries: lacerations, amputations, crushing, and, in the worst-case scenario, death. Here we’ll look at how OSHA protects workers from machine hazards through two OSHA Standards for employers that, despite similar goals, must both be followed to maintain 29 CFR compliance.

The most significant machinery-related standards OSHA enforces machinery are its Lockout/Tagout and Machine Guarding Standards. The goal of these is to make sure employees working around machinery avoid injury and stay safe.

Unfortunately, these two standards are nearly always in OSHA’s top 10 most-violated standards. And when employees do get hurt around machinery, it is often a serious injury that results in medical treatment and lost time. Simply put, employers cannot afford to be lax about machine hazards.

While both the lockout/tagout and machine guarding Standards protect employees who work with or around machinery, the two apply at different times. One applies while the machine is in use, while the other applies when the machine is not in service.

What Are OSHA’s Lockout/Tagout Rules?

OSHA’s Lockout/tagout Standard or “Control of Hazardous Energy” Standard (29 CFR 1910.147), aims to safeguard employees during maintenance activities, when the machinery is supposed to stay off.
Unexpected startup of machinery or release of hazardous energy can lead to serious injuries, especially since employees must often touch and reach inside the machinery to perform needed maintenance. To prevent these machines from kicking on, maintenance workers must ensure locks (or in some cases tags) are applied over the means of startup (for instance, switches).

In 2017, 2,877 violations of Lockout/tagout rules were enough to rank Control of Hazardous Energy as the #5 most cited OSHA safety Standards.

What Are OSHA’s Machine Guarding Rules?

OSHA’s machine guarding Standard (29 CFR 1910.212) made OSHA’s top 10 most-cited list for 2017 too. This Standard protects workers while machines are powered on. Workers who operate and work around machinery must be protected from hazards at the point of operation (cutting, shaping, etc.), ingoing nip points, rotating parts, and flying chips and sparks.
beryllium_exposure_worker.jpgExamples of machine guards can include:
  • Actual physical guards that create a barrier between the employee and the machinery;
  • devices (e.g., sensors) that  turn off the machinery if the employee enters dangerous areas; or
  • automated feeds that let the machine pull product rather than the employee, and others.
Among the 1,933 machine guarding violations recorded by OSHA in 2017, point-of-operation hazards were the most common source of noncompliance.
Learn more about OSHA’s Machine Guarding Standards here.

Effecitve Lockout/Tagout and Machine Training Is Critical

Not only do facilities need to have lockout/tagout and machine guarding tools in place, but, importantly, they need to train their employees on their policies and procedures. Particularly, lockout/tagout requires a thorough understanding on how to utilize locks and tags since it is the maintenance employees themselves who will apply them. Locks and tags themselves can’t protect anyone if they are not applied properly and at the right time.

Convenient, Effective OSHA Safety Training

Employers must provide employees with effective safety training that empowers workers to protect themselves and their co-workers from the hazards present in any given workplace.

Check out our expanded OSHA safety training Catalog for convenient, interactive OSHA online courses that give employees the knowledge and tools to get any job done safely. From Lockout/Tagout to HAZWOPER, HazCom, OSHA 10-Hour, lithium battery safety and much more, find courses to protect your workers at  

Tags: 29, CFR', lockout, osha, safety, safety training, tagout

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