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Common Terminology for Machine Safety

Copy of ACD Image (3)With the complexities and dangers associated with heavy machinery in a factory or manufacturing plant, it is important to be well-versed in the language of machine safety. Below, we’ll expound on a few key terms that are integral to maintaining safe working conditions.

Hierarchy of Controls

A hierarchy of controls refers to the means of determining how to implement feasible and effective controls in an attempt to eliminate or reduce the possibility of hazards. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) defines the workflow as follows:

  1. Elimination: Physically remove the hazard
  2. Substitution: Replace or reduce the hazard
  3. Engineering controls: Isolate people from the hazard
  4. Administrative controls: Change the way people work
  5. Personal protective equipment: Protect the worker with PPE

It is important to note that PPE is the last line of defense against worker injury (as stipulated by OSHA) and should always be worn for employee safety.

Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)

The equipment utilized by workers can vary based on the type of work they are conducting. A PPE assessment can properly identify the hazards of different machines that affect the operators and inform the decision-making process in selecting the appropriate protective gear. As operators are prone to a myriad of hazards such as exposure to chemicals, heat, sharp edges, welding sparks, etc, the proper protective equipment can be lifesaving. Some examples of PPE are safety glasses, face shields, solvent-resistant gloves, aprons, steel toe boots, noise-canceling earmuffs, and much more.

Risk Assessment

A risk assessment is a step-by-step breakdown of the potential hazards in a machine. By separating the tasks of the machine into steps, technicians can properly diagnose potential hazards and attempt to stop them before any accidents occur. A third-party contractor is useful in assessing each machine and locating potential pitfalls. By evaluating risk, technicians can determine whether additional safeguarding methods should be integrated into the machine for safety purposes. If the risk is not tolerable, appropriate safeguards must be implemented to reduce risk to an acceptable level.


With the high potential for worker injury in a factory environment, safeguards are essential to protect workers from unnecessary and preventable injuries. Any machine part, function, or process which may inflict injury must be safeguarded, either by eliminating or controlling associated hazards. In mechanical hazards, safeguards must be implemented in three basic areas - the point of operation, the power transmission of the apparatus, and any other moving parts. In order for a safeguard to truly protect workers against mechanical hazards, certain minimum safety requirements must be met. These include preventing contact between the worker and machinery as well as ensuring the safeguard is secure and cannot be tampered with. Furthermore, the safeguard should not create any new hazards or interference in the machine that could trigger additional hazards.

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