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Mechanical power presses are used to punch, shear, form and assemble metal parts for automobiles, doors and windows, and a variety of other products. Precisely because of their ability to cut through hard objects, they can be hazardous to anyone operating them, if proper precautions are not taken. In fact, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration calculated that power-press accidents cause about 650 amputations per year. Statistics for amputations were so high in metal-working industries compared to other manufacturing businesses that, several years ago, OSHA developed a National Emphasis Program to target power press safety for special enforcement and education activities.
“Operating a mechanical power press can be extremely dangerous,” said Greg Watchman, the acting head of OSHA at the time. “Yet injuries are preventable when employers ensure that guards, which have long been required and are readily available, are installed and maintained on presses in order to protect workers against the punching action of metal stamping equipment.”
Guarding against danger
If your employees work with power presses, they face the greatest danger of injury at the point of operation where the stock is inserted, held and withdrawn by hand. That is why effective machine guarding is crucial for keeping hands, arms or other parts of the body from making contact with dangerous moving parts.
OSHA considers any opening that is more than a quarter-inch wide to be big enough to cause an injury. These openings must be guarded with barrier guards, two-hand tripping devices or electronic safety devices. To prevent injuries, your power press safeguards should:
If your machine guards fail any of the above tests, the power press should not be used until an appropriate guard can be purchased or fabricated.
Besides being responsible for safety guards, pressroom supervisors must:
You or your maintenance personnel should also conduct regular inspections and maintenance procedures on the power presses, including:
Training is crucial
The most important element in eliminating accidents is to make sure that workers are properly trained before they are allowed to operate presses. They should receive training on the type of power press they will be using, and they should be able to demonstrate the following proper procedures:
When using such potentially dangerous equipment, basic safety rules must be followed carefully. Tell your employees to concentrate on their work, avoid distractions and not to rush. They shouldn't wear loose clothing or jewelry that could get caught in moving parts. If they need to perform maintenance on any power press, they should closely adhere to standard lockout/tagout procedures.
After reviewing the training items, show employees exactly how the guarding mechanism prevents them from getting caught up in the power press and why they should not attempt to circumvent the machine guards in any way. Ask employees if the guards are interfering with the work. If they are, find a replacement. Also ask about any other safety concerns involving the machines, discuss recent accidents or near misses, and explain the need for required personal protective equipment. Emphasize to employees that, as the people closest to the presses, they must trust their instincts and shut down and report any machine that doesn’t seem to be functioning correctly. After all, it's their safety that's on the line.
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