Keep up to date with Health & Safety for New Zealand Business

Are you Following WorkSafe NZ Guidelines for Machinery and Guarding?


With the recent sentencing of Christchurch meat manufacturer Hellers Limited, we thought it would be a good time to remind you of the importance of following the current health and safety guidelines for machinery and guarding from WorkSafe NZ.

Details of the Case

Company: Hellers Limited
Failures: Machine operation unsafely adapted
Staff injuries: The worker lost 4 fingers
Outcomes: A fine of $193,500 and $60,000 in reparation to the employee
Read the full WorkSafe report

WorkSafe NZ Best Practice Guidelines provide a practical solution path for compliance responsibilities when it comes to machinery. However, the assumed competency for engineering and operational staff can be problematic and often leads to poor outcomes including employee injury and legal action.

Here’s an overview of the WorkSafe NZ Safe Use of Machinery and Guarding Guidelines

The Best Practice Guidelines for the Safe Use of Machinery from WorkSafe outline the potential hazards from using machinery in the workplace, injuries that could result and how best to control these hazards.

Who’s responsible

The HSE Act and HSE Regulations place responsibilities on machinery and plant designers, manufacturers, suppliers, installers and operators, employers and owners of machinery. All these parties must take all practicable steps to make sure machinery in the workplace is designed safely and is adequately guarded to reduce the risk of injuries or harm.

Potential hazards

Employers have been prosecuted for injuries and fatalities to staff and contractors through using machinery in the following examples:

  • No guarding on machines at all – letting operators reach into dangerous parts of the machine
  • Guards not securely fastened and easily removed while the machine is in use
  • Openings in the guards where the operator can easily reach through to dangerous parts
  • Operators able to remove guards for maintenance and not replacing them
  • Interlocked guards that can open while parts are still moving or running down
  • Mechanisms from interlock switches can be removed to override the guards
  • Single light beam safeguard devices can be switched off
  • Closed limit switches which are not used, causing interlock switches to be overridden
  • Interlock guards used as a shortcut to start the machine
  • Ineffective lock-out and isolation of power systems
  • Supporting systems failure, such as when pneumatic or hydraulic systems lose pressure and allow a ram to fall

worksafe nz Guidelines for Machinery and Guarding

Responsibilities and duties for safe use of machinery

Since there are several people who have a duty to ensure the safe use of machinery the WorkSafe guidelines split their guidance up into sections covering each stage of the machinery supply and use.

Within the guidelines you’ll find information for:

  • Design and manufacturing – get it right from the start
  • Duties of manufacturers and suppliers of machinery
  • Supplying machinery
  • Choosing and buying
  • Installing machinery
  • Use of machinery – the employer
  • Inspection and maintenance
  • Modifying machinery
  • Decommissioning machinery
  • Use of machinery – the employee

Identifying, assessing and controlling hazards

The basis of good health and safety practices is making sure hazards do not cause harm or injury. This section covers the basics of hazard management and the common hazards that are found when working with or near machinery.

These include:

  • Hazard management
  • Identify hazards
  • Machinery hazards
  • Mechanical hazards
  • Ergonomic hazards
  • Chemicals and fumes
  • Organisational hazards
  • Electrical safety of machinery
  • Environmental and occupational health hazards
  • Other hazards
  • Operational hazards

Hazard and risk assessment

Hazard and risk assessment will help you to determine how severe the risk is in relation to use of machinery in the workplace. Identifying hazards is just the start, you must then assess the risk for injury and put control measures in place to eliminate or control the risk.

worksafe nz

Controlling machinery hazards

Employers are responsible for making sure the hazards associated with workplace machinery are controlled so they do not harm workers or operators. The WorkSafe Guidelines contain information about step that must be taken to eliminate, isolate or minimise the hazard. If employers cannot eliminate or isolate the hazard (because it is not practicable to do so) they must minimise it.

Eliminate hazards at the design process

By far the best time to eliminate hazards is at the design stage of machinery. This section covers some of the common hazards that can be eliminated through design. Guidance includes assessing the reliability of safety functions, safety throughout the lifecycle of the machines use, construction of machinery and verifying that the machine is safe and fit for purpose.

Guarding Types – Isolating and Minimising

These sections cover the types of machine guarding available that can isolate workers from hazards or minimise risks to workers through guarding.

Depending on the situation, a combination of two or more safeguards may be required to keep workers safe.

Guarding types may include:

  • Fixed guards
  • Interlocked guards
  • Placing hazards out of reach of operators
  • Power controls
  • Photoelectric safety devices
  • Automatic push away guards
  • Two-hand controls
  • Pressure sensitive mats
  • Locked guards and gates
  • Emergency stop devices
  • Isolation procedures

This section also contains information about developing safe use procedures, consultation and communication between health and safety personnel, employers and operators, training and supervision, maintenance, first aid and personal protective equipment (PPE) and monitoring and evaluation of risks.

Choosing the right guard

This section of the WorkSafe Guidelines outlines the steps to be taken in deciding on appropriate guarding for workplace machinery. The best guard for the machine will create a physical barrier between a worker and the dangerous parts of the machine. Be sure to check this section of the guidance when assessing machinery guarding.

Creating Safe systems of work

A safe system of work means “the steps which if followed, will minimise the hazard arising from doing a specific task or set of tasks, as far as practicable.” – WorkSafe

While all businesses must assess guarding options for machinery, they must also have safe systems of work in place for tasks and processes that take into account:

  • Hazards and controls
  • Human factors
  • Emergency management
  • People management
  • The work environment
  • Correct use of tools and plant

WorkSafe breaks down it’s safe systems for work guidance on machinery and guarding as follows:

  • Participation and consultation
  • Hazard management
  • Competency of operators and supervisors
  • Emergency procedures
  • When guarding is not an option
  • Agreement and sign-off
  • Competent person
  • Reviewing

More information on the WorkSafe NZ Guidelines for Machinery and Guarding

Download the full guidance document from WorkSafe here.

Find out about the HasTrak Safe Use of Machinery and Guarding one day training course here.

Ready to get the help you need?

Get in touch to talk about health and safety management, consultancy or training for New Zealand business.

12 + 11 =

More posts