Safeguarding Choices For Metal Cutting Saws 

Although OSHA’s Code of Federal Regulations does not have a machine specific regulation for metal cutting saws, 1910.212 General Requirements For All Machines says that one or more methods of machine guarding shall be provided to protect the operator and other employees in the machine area from hazards such as those created by point of operation, ingoing nip points, rotating parts, flying chips and sparks.
 
Choices for these safeguarding methods may include one or more of the following:

  • blade guards (fixed, movable, and/or interlocked)
  • polycarbonate shields (for chip/coolant control)
  • two-hand control (for parts that can be fixtured)
  • awareness barriers and devices (to prevent unauthorized people from being in the hazard area)

Although presence-sensing devices are also listed as a possible means of safeguarding, their practical application is often very limited.
 
Other point-of-operation safeguarding may include point-of-operation devices (two-hand control and/or push sticks) and safe holding (based on the size and shape of the part).
 
A correctly applied polycarbonate shield meets OSHA’s minimum requirement for preventing chips and coolant from striking the operator or from collecting on the floor where they might present a slip/trip hazard. Recent safety standards, however, contain new warnings regarding the lifespan of polycarbonate. The impact protection of this material may only be 2-3 years when exposed to cutting fluids on a regular basis. It is a good idea to keep replacement polycarbonate shields on hand. 
 
ANSI B11.10 clause 8 on point-of-operation safeguarding requires a safety (blade) guard to protect the operator from an exposed portion of the saw blade. Because it’s a primary requirement, safety (blade) guards have been provided on most saws by machine OEMs since the inception of OSHA in the early 1970s.